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Medical News and Perspectives
May 1, 2013

Judge: No Age Restriction for Emergency Contraceptive

JAMA. 2013;309(17):1764. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.4585

A federal judge has ordered the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act within 30 days to make emergency contraceptives available over the counter to adolescents without a prescription. The ruling applies to levonorgestrel-based products that are currently available without prescription to women aged 17 years or older. The drugs help prevent pregnancy if taken within 3 days of unprotected intercourse.

But use of emergency contraceptives has been controversial, and their path to over-the-counter status has been marked by unprecedented moves by the FDA and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In the April 4 ruling, US District Judge Edward R. Korman noted that in the 12 years that have passed since a citizen petition was filed to make the products available over the counter, “the FDA has engaged in intolerable delays.”

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