Life is Precious – September 2006

“Follow the money”, “Deep Throat” told the Washington Post reporters investigating Watergate:  Unfortunately, few reporters have followed the fabled money trail in seeking to understand why the FDA has recently reversed itself in approving over the counter sales of “Plan B”. Making available without a prescription this powerful drug is both bad policy and bad medicine; but it does promise a financial windfall for Barr Laboratories, the manufacturer of Levonorgestrel, the main ingredient of what is also known as “the morning after pill”.

Marketed as “emergency contraception”, this pharmaceutical cocktail can also induce abortion by starving to death an embryo (aka, an already conceived human being) by preventing implantation in the maternal womb.  Without benefit of a doctor’s supervision, many women will be unaware of this abortifacient action as well as the other risks posed by “Plan B”, including increased risks of potentially fatal ectopic pregnancies.

Under “Plan B”, Levonorgestrel – an artificial hormone– is given in a dose 40 times more potent than the dosage used in birth control pills available only with a doctor’s prescription. As T.V. ads for birth control pills “cheerfully” point out, prescribed contraceptive drugs may be contraindicated for women who have breast cancer, unexplained bleeding, liver tumors or acute liver disease.  These contraindications as well as other side effects of using birth control pills (weight gain, depression, loss of sexual desire, and permanent infertility among others) are for using relatively small doses of these manufactured hormones.  Making the more powerful dosage available over the counter upon request simply offends common sense – especially when the drug is not designed to treat a disease or a pathological condition.

Also, while FDA says it will require vendors to check buyers’ ID’s before dispensing, this alone will not restrict access of these dangerous drugs to underage teens any more than ID checks have restricted teen access to cigarettes or alcohol. Is Plan B proven safe for teens? No studies exist. What if it’s used repeatedly? Both the manufacturer and the World Health Organization warn against routine use – but how would one stop a young woman from dangerous repeated use if it’s available on any pharmacy shelf? But studies do exist that indicate that where available so called “emergency contraception” has not lowered the number of unintended pregnancies or abortions. 

Barr Laboratories stands to earned $25 to $100 million dollars in projected sales. FDA’s Interim Director, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, in approving “Plan B” has put profits of ahead of the health of women and teen girls. Perhaps, personal ambition also played a role as his confirmation has been held up by Pro-abortion forces in the US Senate.  The president should reconsider his nomination of Dr.von Eschenbach and appoint someone who will uphold his stated pro-life positions.  In the meantime however, pharmacies – and other health care providers – should not confuse FDA approval with a “right of access”.  They should refuse to stock this potent (and dangerous) drug for distribution on demand.

It is a sad commentary on our times that so advanced is the “culture of death” in our society that fertility is considered a pathology and pregnancy a disease.