Controversy swirls as sales of Plan B soar


The often contentious pill known as Plan B has turned out to be a major seller for its manufacturer with sales increasing eightfold since 2004. However, the pill still remains morally objectionable to many.


The company projects that sales of Plan B will total about $80 million for 2007, almost double the total for 2006 and up eightfold from 2004, when Barr acquired the product as a prescription-only drug. The doubling of sales corresponds to the August 24, 2006 approval by the FDA for dispensing Plan B without a prescription to anyone 18 and older, according to the AP.


The manufacturer of the drug, Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., has reported that since it began distributing the over-the-counter version last November, all national pharmacy chains now stock it.


"Overall, we've been very pleased with the acceptance," said Barr spokeswoman Carol Cox. "The product may not be for everyone — but if you find yourself in a position to need it, absolutely it should be available."


Opponents of Plan B have not been silent even though sales of the drug have skyrocketed.


The Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington seeking to reverse the FDA ruling.


CWA President Wendy Wright said, “The FDA buckled to pressure to do something it has never done before — make a high dose of a drug available without a prescription when a low dose of the same drug requires a prescription. The agency skirted laws and regulations put in place to ensure drugs are safe and effective, relenting under undue pressure from political operatives.”


The moral objections have come because Plan B, which is a high dose of a drug found in many regular birth-control pills, can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.


The potential abortifacient nature of the drug has caused some pharmacists to refuse to dispense the drug and according to Planned Parenthood, “women continue to encounter pharmacies which refuse to stock Plan B and individual employees who, for reasons of conscience, refuse to sell it.”


Catholic leaders in Connecticut have also resisted the drug and legislation promoting it, because the law forces health care providers to dispense the pill thereby violating their conscience. In May, the Connecticut state legislature passed a bill requiring all hospitals, including Catholic facilities, to offer Plan B to rape victims.


Deirdre McQuade, planning director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, also expressed concern about pharmacy employees, saying they should have the right to refuse to sell Plan B for reasons of conscience. Some states have passed laws to protect this right of refusal.


"Pregnancy is not a disease," McQuade said. "There is no absolute duty to dispense a non-therapeutic drug, but there is a basic civil right of conscience."

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