The morning-after pill will soon be available over the counter for women and girls of any age. A federal judge ruled against the Obama administration's Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, who outraged women's health advocates in 2011 when she overturned an FDA recommendation that Plan B be sold without age restrictions. U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn, New York, ruled that the pill should be available over the counter to anyone, instead of requiring a prescription for girls younger than 17.
In his ruling, Judge Korman accused the federal government of “bad faith” in dealing with the requests over more than a decade to make the pill universally available.
“The F.D.A. has engaged in intolerable delays in processing the petition,” the judge wrote. “Indeed, it could accurately be described as an administrative agency filibuster.”
He added, “The plaintiffs should not be forced to endure, nor should the agency’s misconduct be rewarded by, an exercise that permits the F.D.A. to engage in further delay and obstruction.”
The drug’s manufacturer, Teva Pharmaceuticals, declined to comment on the decision on Friday. In a separate order, the judge denied a motion filed by the company to preserve market exclusivity.
Plan B was approved in 1999 as a prescription-only product, and in 2001, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a citizens petition for it to be made available over the counter or without a prescription. Scientists, including an expert advisory panel to the F.D.A., gave early support to that request. But top agency officials rejected the application because, some said later, they worried they would be fired if they approved it.
Supporters of the judge’s decision include representatives of women’s reproductive health groups and the American Academy of Pediatrics.