Washington: The US government has lowered the age at which girls can buy the morning-after contraceptive pill without a prescription to 15 years.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday announced to approve a contraceptive known as Plan B or popular as "morning after pill" for all women 15 and older.
The announcement is expected to stir the controversy among conservatives who consider it another form of abortion.
In a statement, the FDA said the approval of Plan B One-Step for use without a prescription by women 15 years of age and older is based on an actual use study and label comprehension data submitted by Teva showing that women age 15 and older understood that the product was not for routine use and would not protect them against sexually-transmitted diseases.
These data also established that Plan B One-Step could be used properly within this age group without the intervention of a health care provider.
"Research has shown that access to emergency contraceptive products has the potential to further decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A Hamburg.
"The data reviewed by the agency demonstrated that women 15 years of age and older were able to understand how Plan B One-Step works, how to use it properly, and that it does not prevent the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease," Hamburg said in a statement.
FDA said because the product will not protect a woman from HIV or AIDS or other sexually-transmitted diseases, it is important that young women who are sexually active remember to see a health care provider for routine checkups.
Until this decision the pill, Plan B One-Step, which is used after sexual intercourse to help prevent pregnancy, was available without a prescription only for ages 17 and older.
Besides lowering the age restriction, the new rule addresses concerns of women who were unable to get the pill if their drugstore's pharmacy counter happened to be closed. Now, Plan B One-Step will be available in drugstore aisles where family planning or women's health products are displayed.
The packaging will include a product code that, when scanned by a cashier, will indicate that the customer's proof of age is required. To try to prevent theft, the manufacturer, Teva Pharmaceuticals, has arranged for each box to have a security tag, the drug agency said.