Isle teens won't lose access to Plan B pill
Advocates claim state law complies with new FDA rules
A federal Food and Drug Administration decision will not affect access by local women and girls 14 and older to the morning-after pill, state advocates say.
Women may buy the morning-after pill without a prescription only with proof they are 18 or older, the FDA said yesterday, ending a three-year debate over easing access to the emergency contraceptive.
Girls 17 and younger still will need a doctor's note to buy the pills called Plan B, the FDA told manufacturer Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc.
In Hawaii, teens 17 and younger still will be able to get emergency contraception pills, program advocates say, because participating pharmacists write a prescription before handing out the medicine, said Barbara Kashiwabara, director of pharmaceutical services at Kaiser Permanente and chairwoman of the Hawaii Pharmacy Association's Government Affairs Committee.
She said the FDA action is "good news. It frees up women 18 and older." She added, "The way we're reading it, it doesn't change state law."
Under Hawaii law, women and girls age 14 and older have access to emergency contraception at pharmacies with trained pharmacists who have collaborative agreements with physicians. A brief intake process is required, with a fee at some pharmacies, and women are referred to doctors.
Before dispensing the pills, a pharmacist writes a prescription and puts his name on it, as well as that of the collaborating doctor, Kashiwabara said. Thus, teens 14 to 18 still could get prescription-only emergency contraception pills.
Nancy Partika, executive director of the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, said there are still questions to be resolved about the federal decision.
If it requires a prescription for teens, "the state still is in control of what is a prescription," she said. Under Hawaii's emergency contraception law, the pharmacist functions with the physician as a prescriber, she said. But she added, "It's still a gray area."
The California-based Pharmacy Access Partnership, which coordinates efforts nationally to improve emergency contraception access, is looking into the issues, she said.
Hawaii is one of nine states offering women access to emergency contraception pills, which have a higher dose of an ingredient used in birth control pills.
Kashiwabara said most patients using pharmacies to obtain the pills have been 18 and older.
Participating pharmacists in Hawaii counsel women getting the drugs and refer them to a doctor for follow-up care. Those involved with the program say this has been effective, and Kashiwabara said she would continue to advise it, even if the FDA does not require it in the final rulings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.