Morning-after pill stays behind counter after all

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“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,” Hamburg wrote.

Pediatrician Breuner said taking Plan B, which contains a higher dose of the female progestin hormone that is in regular birth control pills, wouldn’t harm even young adolescents.

Sebelius didn’t raise safety concerns. She said maker Teva Pharmaceuticals hadn’t proved that the very youngest girls who might try Plan B would understand how to use it properly.

A Teva-funded study tracked 11- to 17-year-olds who came to clinics seeking emergency contraception. Nearly 90 percent of them used Plan B safely and correctly without professional guidance, said Teva Vice President Amy Niemann. But Teva wouldn’t say how many of the youngest girls were part of the study.

The company was determining its next steps.

Taking Plan B within 72 hours of rape, condom failure or just forgetting regular contraception can cut the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent. But it works best within the first 24 hours. There are two other emergency contraception pills: a two-pill generic version named Next Choice that also is sold behind the counter, and a prescription-only pill named ella.

If a woman already is pregnant, the morning-after pill has no effect. It prevents ovulation or fertilization of an egg. According to the medical definition, pregnancy doesn’t begin until a fertilized egg implants itself into the wall of the uterus. Still, some critics say Plan B is the equivalent of an abortion pill because it may also be able to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.

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Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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