Women and girls of all ages will finally be able to buy a generic version of the “morning-after pill” without a prescription or an I.D.—just by taking it off the drug store’s shelf. The reason is a new Food and Drug Administration policy, which the agency announced last week. The result will be cheaper access to the drug, which can prevent pregnancy within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Generic versions typically cost up to 20 percent less than the name-brand drug, Plan B One-Step from Teva Pharmaceuticals, which sells for about $50 a regimen.
It’s a victory for women’s health advocates, who have emphasized the importance of generics—and, of course, it’s a victory for women trying to avoid unwanted pregnancies. But this big step forward comes with a smaller step back. Under the new FDA ruling, makers of the generic drugs must indicate, on the label, that the drug is intended for “women 17 years of age or older.” Teva’s label will bear no such caveat. The requirement is bound to create confusion, potentially discouraging some people who want the drug from getting it.