Plan B to be available on pharmacy shelves
A federal pharmacy advisory panel has recommended that the “morning-after” pill be available on store shelves instead of behind the counter. The move means women, including adolescents, will be able to purchase the high dose birth control pill without either a doctor’s prescription or a pharmacist’s oversight.
The pill has been available directly from a pharmacist without a doctor’s prescription since 2005. But the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities has suggested that levonorgestrel, marketed under the brand name Plan B in Canada and the United States and produced by Paladin Labs Inc. in Montreal, should be available to customers as a Schedule III drug. Drugs listed under Schedule III of the NAPRA’s regulations “do not require a prescription as a condition of the sale, but are sold from the self-selection area of the pharmacy maintained under the personal supervision of a pharmacist or certified dispenser.” However, it is suggested that, “A pharmacist or certified dispenser must be available to assist the patient in making an appropriate self-medication selection.”
In other words, it will be sold within viewing distance of the pharmacist, but potentially alongside cough syrup and aspirin.
The decision was made at a meeting in early April, but not announced until May 16. NAPRA has only advisory capacities and provincial and territorial pharmacy regulatory authorities will have the final say over the matter in their own jurisdictions. The Alberta and Ontario college of pharmacists endorsed the proposal immediately upon NAPRA’s public pronouncement.
Canada joins India, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden in allowing from-the-shelf sales of the morning-after pill. In the United States, adult women may obtain the MAP from a pharmacist, although minors still require a doctor’s prescription.
The morning-after pill, billed as “emergency contraception,” works in two ways. One is as a contraceptive by preventing or delaying ovulation, and the other is as an abortifacient, by preventing a new embryonic human being from being implanted in the uterus.
The medical establishment and regulatory agencies deny the MAP’s abortifacient properties, despite the manufacturer’s own description of how the drug works.
Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition , said, “The morning after pill also prevents a newly conceived child from implanting in the uterus, resulting in the death of the child. Promoters are trying to deceive the public into believing that this is not an abortifacient and that it is safe for women.”
CLC national organizer Mary Ellen Douglas criticized the lack of oversight in distributing the MAP, wondering: “Who will take responsibility when a young woman develops a blood clot and dies?”
Vyta Senikas, associate vice-president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, said the move was “safe,” but that counselling should be maintained. She did not, however, say how that would be done under the new system if it is implemented by the provincial pharmacist colleges.
But Toronto lawyer Jane Pepino, chair of the Ontario Women’s Health Council, which has promoted shelf-sales of the MAP, said one of the disadvantages of the existing arrangement was that some customers, especially teenage girls, were uncomfortable talking about “their intimate sexual history in a not terribly private place.”