Study Indicates Teens Understand Labeling for Emergency Contraception

A new study indicates that teenager’s comprehension of emergency contraception (EC) labeling is comparable to that of adults. EC, also known as Plan B, is effective up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex, birth control failure, or rape, but it is most effective (95 percent) if taken within 24 hours.

The EC label comprehension study surveyed 1,085 girls ages 12 to 17 in New York City. Results were then compared to a similar 2002 study that surveyed adult women. According to Reuters, 92 percent of teenage girls in the new study and 93 percent of adult women in the 2002 study understood that EC is “a method of preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex.” Similarly 83 percent of teenage girls surveyed (compared with 85 percent of women surveyed in 2002) understood that Plan B must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. A number of other measures also showed high understanding of those surveyed of EC’s purpose and proper use.

Lead researcher Dr. Miriam Cremer, of New York University’s School of Medicine, told Reuters that “I believe the potential implications of our study are to help the FDA decide to make Plan B available over-the-counter without an age restriction.” Cremer’s study concludes that teenagers “demonstrate comprehension equal to adults of the key points necessary for safe and effective use of emergency contraception.”

A New York District Court Judge ruled last week that the FDA must reconsider its 2006 ruling that allowed emergency contraception to be sold without a prescription to women 18 and older. The ruling (see PDF) also specifically orders Barr Pharmaceuticals, which distributes Plan B, to make EC available over-the-counter to women as young as 17 within 30 days. Because of the time-sensitive nature of EC, over-the-counter access is crucial to its effective use.


Reuters 4/1/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 3/24/09; United States District Court Eastern District of New York 3/23/09

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