Please Don’t Take My Plan B Away

You are my plan B, my only plan B
You make me happy ensuing days
I’m so happy the morning after
Please don’t take my plan B away.[1]

Teva Pharmaceuticals calls their morning-after pill “Plan B®.”  Here’s what you would have seen on store shelves if Dictator Sebelius had not intervened:

Plan B box
Plan B box

But over here at pfpfp we’re depressed about this news.  Overruling her experts at the FDA, Health and Human Services permanent dictator for life Kathleen Sebelius has banned the Plan B pill from store shelves in the U.S. That means fewer women will be able to end unwanted pregnancies easily and safely.  Which means more children.  We would not be People for a Population-Free Planet if we failed to comment on this outrage.

Let’s make our stance perfectly clear.  We oppose teen sex.  We oppose premarital sex.  We oppose post-marital sex.  And we oppose post-mortem sex.

Media coverage of this event has been moderately hysterical.  The Los Angeles Times is pretty good both with news and editorial.  Let’s begin with the opinion, far and away the more interesting of the two.

“So is the next move by Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, going to revolve around taking Tylenol off the pharmacy’s self-service shelves?

The question might be silly, but it serves to make a point. If Sebelius was determined to stop the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from allowing over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill to girls younger than 17, she needed to find a stronger argument than concern that 11-year-olds, about 10% of whom can become pregnant, might not understand how to use the pill.

Never mind that FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg had delved deeply into the subject and determined that girls of any age who were old enough to get pregnant were old enough to figure out proper usage of the Plan B pill. Sebelius’ argument fails when we simply look at the wide range of pharmaceuticals that can be purchased off the shelf by any 11-year-old.

Overuse of acetaminophen — Tylenol is one brand name for this common generic pain reliever — can be quite dangerous.  As The Times reported last year, acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of liver failure and death from liver failure in the U.S. But no one, including Sebelius, is hinting at sweeping the medication off the shelves and planting it behind the counter, demanding a prescription from anyone younger than 17.

In fact, 11-year-olds would be much less likely to purchase Plan B, since only 5% of them — the girls who are capable of becoming pregnant, and of those, only the ones who are having unprotected sex — would have any use for it.

Almost any over-the-counter medication can be misused, but we don’t live our lives around the assumption that it will be.”[2]

You read that correctly.  Tylenol can kill you.  Aspirin causes stomach bleeding.[3]  There are a host of ordinary off-the-shelf medications that can cause health problems, up to and including death.

And yet Dictator Sebelius has the audacity to claim this was not a political decision.  Absurd and ridiculous are two words that come to mind.  In typical fashion, “President Obama today said he had no say in the decision by his secretary of Health and Human Services to block the Plan B morning-after pill from being sold over the counter to young teens but offered his support for the decision ‘as the father of two daughters.’

‘I did not get involved in the process,” the president told reporters at the White House today. “This was a decision that was made by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of HHS.’”[4]

It’s hard to satirize this stuff because the content is so amazingly dumb.  Let’s move instead to the L.A. Times article:

“The emergency contraceptive Plan B will not be made available over-the-counter to younger teens, the Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday, exposing a rift between the agency and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Teva, the manufacturer of the oral contraceptive that can be taken up to 72 hours after sex to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, requested approval from the FDA in February to make the drug available without a prescription to individuals age 16 and younger. Currently, the drug, commonly known as the ‘morning-after pill,’ is available without a prescription to women 17 and older, and is kept behind the pharmacy counter.

FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg expressed support for expanding access for the drug without a prescription.

‘I reviewed and thoughtfully considered the data, clinical information, and analysis provided by [the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research], and I agree with the center that there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential,’ FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement.

But Hamburg said she was informed this morning that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius disagreed with the FDA’s determination, and therefore the request by Teva, Plan B’s manufacturer, will not be approved.

‘[T]he switch from prescription to over the counter for this product requires that we have enough evidence to show that those who use this medicine can understand the label and use the product appropriately,’ Sebelius said in a statement. ‘I do not believe that Teva’s application met that standard. The label comprehension and actual use studies did not contain data for all ages for which this product would be available for use.’

The drug will remain on the market, but women under the age of 17 must have a prescription.”[5]

You can’t make up stuff this good.


[1] Lyrics to “You Are My Sunshine” from http://www.lyricsmania.com/please_dont_take_my_sunshine_away_lyrics_backseat_goodbye.html .  Our sincere apologies to Backseat Goodbye, the writers of the original lyrics.

[2] From  http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/2011/12/what-if-tylenol-were-taken-off-the-shelves.html  .  Copyright 2011 Los Angeles Times. Excerpted here with link under fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law.

[3] There is a body of opinion that the FDA would not approve aspirin today.

[5] From http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-planb-20111207,0,4209118.story .  Copyright 2011 Los Angeles Times. Excerpted here with link under fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law.