Politics influence the manner in which contraceptives are approved for use by medical institutions. For example, in December 2011, the secretary for Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius told the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner not to allow over the counter (OTC) sale of Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive (Wood, Drazen, & Greene, 2012). However, the FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg had already approved the sale because a large number of health care professionals had confirmed that the drug was safe to use. Therefore, when the HHS secretary overruled the decision by the FDA commissioner and restricted the sale of Plan B One-Step contraceptive over the counter, this indicated that the decision that the HHS secretary made was influenced by political forces.
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Plan B One-Step contraceptive is a single tablet that a person should take immediately after engaging in unprotected sex. The drug contains progestin levonorgestrel, which does not interfere with the normal functioning of the human body. This is because Levonorgestrel does not lead to abortion, and it does not terminate any pregnancy that is already established. The drug has been in use in the US since 1999. The efficacy and safety of the drug have also been scientifically reviewed and, therefore, safe for humans. The use of the drug was publicly reviewed by the FDA Advisory Committee in December 2003, where the drug was approved for sale to all women without putting any age restrictions. However, the FDA did not comply with its own rules since it failed to implement the recommendations that the Advisory committee made. In September 2005, the FDA delayed the sale of the drugs over the counter (Wood, Drazen, & Greene, 2012).
However, after a series of political meetings in August 2006, the sale of Plan B One-Step contraceptive over the counter was denied. In this perspective, the drug was only to be sold to women who were aged 17 years and above without prescription. However, women needed to prove their age before they could be sold the drug. Women who were younger than 16 years were required to take the drug under prescription. However, Plan B One-Step manufacturer applied for a license so that the drug could be approved for use without any restrictions. After a careful review, the FDA’s staff approved the sale of the drug over the counter. Therefore, it is true that health professionals and scientists took part in assuring the public that the drug was safe for women to use to enable them to avoid unwanted pregnancies. However, the HHS secretary said in December 2011 that the data that was presented to her regarding the use of the drug was not sufficient. Therefore, she could not approve girls below 16 years to use the drug without a prescription.
However, since most women were required to produce proof of their age and identify after engaging in unprotected sex, most of them refrained from using the drug because they felt shame. In addition, women who did not have valid documents to prove their age were at a disadvantage because they were not allowed to use the drugs. Therefore, the decision by the HHS secretary to sell the drugs behind the counter was influenced by political forces.
Wood, A. J., Drazen, J. M., & Greene, M. F. (2012). The Politics of Emergency Contraception. Web.