Access to Plan B contraceptive now easier for all ages

An emergency contraception pill is now hitting drug store and pharmacy shelves, for the first time allowing women of any age to buy it without restrictions.

The pill, called Plan B One-Step, generally is effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of birth control failure or unprotected sex.

The first shipments of the pill began arriving at Bartell Drugs’ 60 Western Washington pharmacies late last week, said Barry Bartlett, a spokesman for the drug store chain.

At Bartell’s, the pill costs $49.99, and is stocked in the family planning section, he said.

“They can pick that up from the counter and purchase it at the check stand,” Bartlett said. “There’s no identification required or anything like that.”

Previously, the pill was available at area pharmacies over the counter to those 17 and older, and to younger teens with a prescription.

In June, the Federal Drug Administration cleared the way for the pill to be sold over the counter, regardless of age. It follows a U.S. District Court order instructing the federal agency to allow the sale of emergency contraception over the counter without age or point-of-sale restrictions.

Changes had to be made in labeling by the manufacturer, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, so shipments are just now arriving at local stores.

“We are elated this is finally on the shelves and available to anybody who needs it,” said Kristen Glundberg-Prossor, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest. “We hope that every pharmacy and drug store will soon have it on the shelves and available for women.”

Making the contraceptive widely available without restrictions is an issue the organization has been working on for years, she said.

“It’s a really safe and effective medication,” she said. “Just as condoms are over the counter, Plan B should be over the counter, too.”

Planned Parenthood has the pill in its clinics where it costs $35, Glundberg-Prossor said. It’s also available on a sliding fee scale to low-income women.

Calls to Costco, Walgreens and Haggens on the availability of Plan B One-Step were not returned Monday.

Group Health will continue to make Plan B available in all of its pharmacies, said spokesman Ed Boyle.

Although Plan B One-Step is now widely available, it doesn’t mean it will be available at every pharmacy.

The pill has never been sold at the retail pharmacy at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett or at its retail pharmacies in Mill Creek and Monroe.

The Roman Catholic Church opposes artificial birth control, such as condoms and various birth control pills for women.

Last month, spokeswoman Cheri Russum said there were no plans to change the hospital’s policy. The pill is available to victims of sexual assault in the hospital’s emergency department, she said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

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