Thursday, April 21, 2005

If Plan A fails and they won't let you have Plan B...

Canada approves morning-after-pill without fuss.
April 21, 2005
imagesCanada, the eminently sensible country north of the border has, without a great deal of publicity or turmoil, approved the sale of Levonorgestrel 0.75 mg for sale over-the-counter. That’s Plan B, the emergency contraceptive being blocked in the U.S. by the wingnuts who would rather have a woman have a child she doesn’t want or shouldn’t have than not get pregnant at all. Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh [really] announced that "women who need this product must have access to it very quickly or it will not be effective. Allowing the product to be sold without a prescription will ensure that it is available when needed." Plan B [absolutely love that name] can prevent pregnancy up to three days after unprotected sex, but works best if taken within 24 hours. Health Canada said that it extensively reviewed the clinical evidence and safety data before making the decision. The decision was not a big deal up there. Three provinces, Quebec, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, already permit sales in drug stores without prescription. You have to ask the pharmacist. The Toronto Globe & Mail, arguably the premier newspaper in the country, put the story on B-16. A similar decision in the U.S. would make every front page. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been delaying its decision on Barr Pharmaceuticals’ request for similar approval despite a January deadline, claiming it needs to study the issue of the use by girls 15 years old or younger, but is actually afraid to get religious fundamentalists upset. Health Canada said its investigation led them to believe there is no issue. "No outstanding concerns on its safety in younger teens has been identified, the agency said. “there is no reason to delay timely access to other women." Barr asked for permission to sell Plan B over-the-counter to females over 16 and by prescription for the younger ones. Religious conservatives claim that the ability to take Plan B would lead to an increase in risky sexual activity by young women and more sexually transmitted diseases. On the other hand, not permitting it would lead to more abortions. Go figure. Democratic senators are holding up the nomination of the new FDA commissioner, Lester Crawford because of the delay. Several states, including California, are formulating plans to circumvent FDA obstruction, kind of a Plan B for Plan B. In the words of Health Canada: "A number of European countries and several U.S. states have already granted access to emergency contraceptives via pharmacist-controlled sales. In Canada, behind-the-counter status would give timely access and professional advice." Heaven forbid. Canada is now the 34th country to approve the pill.

Oh yes. Canada also became the first country to approve a pain killer for multiple sclerosis--based on the active ingredient in marijuana.

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