Commentary Contraception

Physician to President’s Scientific Advisors: Plan B Decision Hurt Science, Medicine, Women’s Health

Douglas Laube

"As doctors, we prescribe and recommend Plan B to adolescents and adults, knowing it is safer than Tylenol and many other products sold on drugstores' open shelves."

See all our coverage of the Administration’s 2011 Emergency Contraception Reversal here.

This afternoon, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health’s board chair Douglas Laube, MD, MEd, addressed the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology about the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step® and the Obama administration’s refusal to let the Food and Drug Administration lift the age restriction from the medication. The administration dismissed overwhelming scientific evidence showing Plan B’s safety, argued Dr. Laube, as well as an enormous opportunity to help the American public prevent unintended pregnancy and abortion. He delivered the remarks below as one of five experts testifying on the political decision to deny universal OTC access to emergency contraception.

Good afternoon. My name is Dr. Douglas Laube. I live, practice, and teach in Madison, Wisconsin. I serve as the board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, a national advocacy organization led by doctors.

All of us at PRCH are deeply disappointed by Secretary Sebelius’s dismissal of the FDA’s decision on Plan B. PRCH brings evidence-based medicine to policies affecting contraception and abortion. For several years, our physicians have advocated for wider access to Plan B. We know, thanks to vast research, that this emergency contraceptive has an extremely low level of risk. It has no contraindications, and its rare side effects—dizziness, nausea—are minor and temporary.

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As gynecologists, family medicine specialists, pediatricians, and adolescent medicine specialists, we prescribe and recommend Plan B to adolescents and adults, knowing it is safer than Tylenol and many other products sold on drugstores’ open shelves. Studies of Plan B’s labeling show that teens, like adults, can follow the instructions safely.

When Secretary Sebelius reversed the FDA and upheld the age restriction on Plan B, she kept this medication behind the pharmacy counter for no medical reason whatsoever. Most effective when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex, Plan B has a time limit, and too many women in the United States go without it because the pharmacy counter is closed or they’re 16 or younger and lack a prescription. Our patients deserve a better chance at preventing unintended pregnancy and reducing their need for abortion.

But Secretary Sebelius denied them, with an unscientific rationale that seemed to spring from political, not medical, concerns.

We hope this panel will push for the development of the promised scientific guidelines that protect the public interest, upholding the standards that make advances in health care possible.

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