Preventing Pregnancy 'One-Step' Easier: FDA Approves Simpler Plan B

The Food and Drug administration yesterday approved a new advancement in reproductive health. Starting next month, women 17 and over can purchase Plan B One-Step, a one-dose version of the emergency contraception. (Women under 17 can access the medication only with a prescription). With Plan B: Original Flavor, the pills—which contain a high dose of the hormone levonorgestrel—had to be taken 12 hours apart. Not a problem if you're an early riser who makes it to the pharmacy before work, then slips the second pill just before the latest episode of Top Chef: Masters. But for everyone else ...

"It makes intuitive sense that the one dose would be an obvious way to increase compliance," says Jennifer Rogers, acting executive director for Reproductive Health Technologies Project. "Sometimes, with two doses, women would delay taking their first pill. If you buy it at 2 p.m., but don't want to wake up at 2 a.m., you may wait another six hours to begin the course of treatment," she says. Though emergency contraception can be effective up to 120 hours after unprotected sex, effectiveness does decreases hour by hour, so the sooner it's taken, the better.

"For us, one pill makes the most sense," says Rogers. "A lot of providers tell their patients to take it off-label [using a medication in a way not approved by the FDA] and just take both pills at one time, and that has helped compliance."

Unfortunately, halving the dose probably won't halve the cost of the drug, which rings up at about $50. Pricing for Plan B One-Step has yet to be finalized, but will likely by similar to the original Plan B, says a rep for the company. However, the patent for the original Plan B expires Aug. 24, which means cheaper generics may soon be available for the two-pill combination. While the FDA also lowered age limit for women to buy the the One-Step OTC (as opposed to with a prescription) to 17 from 18, the fact that it's prescription-only for younger women means Plan B lives behind the counter at the pharmacy, making access and ease of purchase more difficult.

Will making Plan B easier to take make it more likely to be used? Or are the impediments to getting Plan B in the first place still too great an obstacle? Share your thoughts below.