Tim Tebow isn't the only Plan B that can inspire endless controversy—according to a new study out of Boston University, one in five pharmacies still refuse to give teens 17 and over access to Plan B, the morning-after contraceptive, despite a federal mandate. We assume that's because they're just redirecting them to the Aspirin aisle—only .24 cents after coupons at Walgreens!
Two female research assistants at Boston University called 943 pharmacies—every commercial pharmacy listed in five major cities (Austin, Cleveland, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Portland)—and asked whether emergency contraception was available to them that day. If the answer was yes, they followed up with the question "If I'm 17, is that okay?" They found that 19% of pharmacies answered "no." They also posed as doctors who were calling on behalf of a 17-year-old patient; in those cases, only 3% refused them.
The pill is designed to be taken within 24 hours after sexual intercourse, but the chance of pregnancy rises 50% if taken after 12 hours according to the study. "It's important that adolescents get the correct information the first time," says Tracey Wilkinson, M.D., lead author of the study and a professor of pediatrics at Boston University. "This highlights some of the barriers that adolescents face when accessing emergency contraception."
Also in the study, which is published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics, pharmacists incorrectly reported the age guidelines for over-the-counter access to 43% of the "girls" and 39% of the "doctors." They concluded: “It appears from our study results that additional education regarding the current rules around [emergency contraceptives] dispensing is needed for pharmacy staff, adolescents, and physicians attempting to obtain this medication.”
Last year, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejected a proposal by the FDA to make Plan B available to everyone and lift the requirement that those under 17 need a prescription. It was a decision with Mayor Bloomberg strongly disagreed with: "It would be much better if these young girls didn’t get pregnant, but once that happens I think this should be available."
If you can look past the horrifying irresponsibility and illegality of what some of these pharmacists are doing, this could make good fodder for Larry David's ongoing pharmacist/doctor debate: