Obama Offer on Morning-After Pill Falls Short, Groups Say

The Obama administration’s offer to lighten restrictions on sales of the morning-after birth control pill falls short of a court order’s demands to increase access to the drug, women’s health groups told a federal judge.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and other groups filed a letter today in Brooklyn, New York, federal court saying the government’s plan is “insufficient” to comply with U.S District Judge Edward R. Korman’s order to lift restrictions on the drug maintained by the Obama administration.

The U.S., which appealed the April order to allow all women to get the pill without a prescription, said in a letter earlier this week it would let Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA) sell its Plan B One-Step over-the-counter without age restrictions. Generics and older two-pill varieties of the drug could remain behind the counter under the plan.

The groups “object to defendants’ proposal because it does not entail the removal of unjustified age or point-of-sale restrictions for all products, including more affordable options,” they said in the letter. “Defendants’ claim that they have complied with the court’s order rings hollow.”

Yesterday, the government told the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan that it would put its appeal of Korman’s ruling on hold. The government said in its June 10 letter that it would drop the appeal if Korman says that the proposal complies with his ruling.

Legal Dispute

Women’s health groups have spent more than eight years in legal disputes with the government to expand over-the-counter access to levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives. In his ruling, Korman said the FDA kept restrictions on obtaining the pills without a prescription for political rather than scientific reasons.

The most recent legal challenge arose after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s December 2011 decision to approve sales of Plan B One-Step without a prescription. The action was the first time an administration has reversed an FDA finding.

Korman hasn’t responded to the government’s latest proposal regarding Plan B One-Step.

The case is Tummino v. Hamburg, 12-cv-00763, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn). The appeal is Tummino v. Hamburg, 13-1690, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Christie Smythe in Brooklyn at csmythe1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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