It's been a long road for the emergency contraceptive pill called Plan B. Its maker, the generic manufacturer Teva, has been trying to get the drug available over-the-counter for buyers of all ages for years. It was stopped by the FDA under the Bush administration, in a decision that prompted resignations and a federal court case.
The Obama administration FDA considered a similar application and was poised to make an opposite decision. A scientific panel and the FDA's commissioner had determined that the drug would be safe for women and girls of all ages to purchase and use without a doctor's prescription. But last week, Sebelius overruled the agency's final decision, arguing that there was not adequate research showing that the youngest girls who might need it - girls as young as 11 -- would be able to read and understand the medication labels. As a result, Plan B will remain prescription-only for girls under 17, and those 17 and older will have to show ID to a pharmacist to buy it. Several commentators have described the move as the first time an HHS secretary has overruled the FDA in this way.
Sebelius denied the judgement was politically motivated, but critics have said it was. Was the secretary right to intervene?