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No Age Limits on Plan B Emergency Contraceptive, FDA Says

Jun 21, 2013 06:39 AM EDT

Women of any age can now get Plan B One-Step (levonorgestrel) without a prescription, the Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday.

The pill reduces chances of a woman becoming pregnant after having unprotected sex. Plan B One-Step was first approved in July 2009. Earlier, women over 17 years of age could get the "morning-after-pill" without a prescription while girls below age 17 required a prescription.

The pill has high levels of a hormone that is found in some other types of contraceptives. The drug works by stopping ovulation. There is no medical evidence that it aborts the fetus.

According to the FDA, making the drug accessible to all women of child-bearing age will reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy in the country. The pill works best when taken within three days of having unprotected sex.

"Over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptive products has the potential to further decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States," said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, according to a news release.

In 2011, the agency first proposed to make the drug accessible to all women without any age restrictions. However, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius then rejected the move. In April this year, U.S. District Judge, Edward Korman declared that emergency contraception should be made available to women of all ages, reports cbsnews.

On June 6.2013, The 2nd U.S Circuit Court of Appeals had ordered the FDA to lift  all age restrictions on the access of generic versions of emergency contraception.

The side-effects of using the pill are similar to those of using other birth-control pills such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, headache, dizziness and breast tenderness.

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