The government just made it that much easier to get birth control. Earlier this week, the FDA decided to allow the generic version of Plan B One-Step to be sold over the counter without age restrictions. In a letter to the manufacturers of the generic version of the drug, the agency noted that this reverses a previous decision, which had given three years of protection from generic competition to Plan B's manufacturer, Teva Pharmaceuticals.
This may sound like an itty-bitty step in the fight for wider availability of birth control, but it's more significant than it looks. The agency's initial decision to give Teva exclusivity was based on the fact that it had done more research than other manufacturers on how Plan B One-Step affected teenagers. But as anyone who has ever gotten a prescription knows, brand-name drugs generally cost more then generics, sometimes by significant amounts.
According to NPR, the difference in cost between Plan B One-Step and one of its two generic counterparts is more than ten dollars. For a teenager in trouble, that could mean the difference between getting the pill the morning after and not being able to get it at all. Although the labels on the generic pill will still advise that it should be used by "women 17 years of age or older," age checks will not actually be in place, and the product will be available right off the shelf. Teens face plenty of other problems when getting birth control, and any barrier that can be removed is significant.