U.S. teenagers should be given prescriptions for emergency contraception to keep on hand in case they ever need it, the American Academy of Pediatrics said.
Emergency contraception, such as Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA)’s Plan B One Step, should be given to teens directly ahead of time, or they should get prescriptions that will allow them to have access to the drugs as needed, the doctors’ group said in a policy statement online today.
The pills are available now without a prescription to females 17 and older and males 18 and older. A move by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow emergency contraception to be sold over the counter to girls younger than 17 was rejected by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in December 2011. The academy encouraged pediatricians to push for increased non-prescription access.
“The point of this whole piece would be to reduce unintended pregnancy,” said Cora Breuner, a member of the academy’s committee on adolescence who was a lead author of the statement.
The academy didn’t discuss the age of teenagers that should be given advance prescriptions, said Breuner, a physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The group suggests that pediatricians have discussions with their patients about sexual activity, and give prescriptions to those who are active.
“Emergency contraception is most effective in decreasing risk of pregnancy when used as soon as possible,” the doctor’s group said in the statement.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said last week that oral contraceptives should be available without a prescription.
Condoms in addition to hormonal contraception or an intrauterine device are the best ways for teens to avoid pregnancy, the pediatricians’ group said. Almost 80 percent of pregnancies in teens are unintended, resulting from contraceptive failure or nonuse, according to the statement to be published next month in the journal Pediatrics.
“I’m pleased that the academy recognizes the need for adolescents to have access to emergency contraception,” Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a telephone interview. “It’s not the final solution, it’s a step along the road to unrestricted access to emergency contraception for all women.”
The center is awaiting a federal judge’s ruling in Brooklyn, New York, on its lawsuit against Sebelius and the FDA to allow over-the-counter access to emergency contraception regardless of age.
“If we don’t have the court ruling before, then the anniversary of Sebelius’ ruling will be a teachable moment for us to remind the administration why it was bad,” Kirsten Moore, president and chief executive officer of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, said in a telephone interview.
Moore said her Washington-based organization will release stories on the Internet of adults who were denied access to emergency contraception because of forgotten identification on their way to the gym or in the confusion of the moment.
“We will be ramping up those efforts in the hopes that in a second administration the doors won’t be slammed shut,” Moore said.
Nancy Northup, president of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, compared the Obama administration at the time of Sebelius’ decision to overturn the FDA to that of former President George W. Bush. Both are guilty of “playing politics with women’s health,” she said.
If the center is successful in its lawsuit, companies that make the emergency contraceptives will still have to seek new labeling with the FDA.
The rate of nausea and vomiting with levonorgestrel, the active ingredient in the emergency contraception, is about half that with methods that combine hormones, the academy said. The birth control includes Watson Pharmaceutical Inc. (WPI)’s Next Choice.
A 2010 review of seven trials of emergency contraception that included teenagers showed that advance prescriptions increased use while none of the studies showed an increase in sexual activity or decrease in contraceptive use, according to the statement.
The statement didn’t address parents’ role in teenagers’ contraception choices. It did say families of disabled adolescents should be counseled on emergency contraception.
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