A brief history of emergency contraception
(Hartford-AP, Apr. 4, 2006 8:05 PM) _ The contentious issue of requiring all Connecticut hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims is being kept alive at the state Capitol.
Republicans failed today in an attempt to strip language from a spending bill that would give five million dollars in energy assistance only to those hospitals that provide the morning-after pill to rape victims. [AP]
In honor of these true blue Democratic legislators, I bring you this brief history of modern emergency contraception. Prepare to be amazed, or non-plussed and outraged, depending on your political orientation.
Scientifically validated emergency contraception (EC) didn't exist until 1974. Dr. Albert Yuzpe, a Canadian OB-GYN, developed and tested the first EC regimen in 1974. Planned Parenthood explains:
The ECP regimen first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is called the Yuzpe Regimen, named for Canadian Professor A. Albert Yuzpe who, in 1974, published the first studies demonstrating the safety and efficacy of ECPs. The Yuzpe regimen consists of combined oral contraceptive pills that contain the hormones estrogen and progestin taken in two doses Our story begins in 1974 when emergency contraception was as innovative as rocket science.
The FDA declared the Yuzpe regimen safe and and effective in 1997 and approved an Yuzpe-based EC kit in 1998. Plan B got FDA approval in 1999.
The drug marketed under the name "Plan B" is a major advance on the Yuzpe regimen. Plan B is the first progestin-only emergency contraceptive pill on the US market.
It wasn't until December 2003 that the FDA heard Plan B's application for over-the-counter status. The committee of scientific experts voted overwhelmingly to approve the drug, but senior Bush political appointees refused to allow Plan B to be sold OTC. The Government Accountability Office later described the ruling as a very rare move.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued an official statement calling the FDA's decision "morally repugnant".
The then-incoming president of ACOG gave a frank statement on Plan B to Medscape magazine:
Vivian M. Dickerson, MD, who takes over today as president of the ACOG, told Medscape that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is stalling a decision on Plan B for no good reason. "These are safe drugs and they should be available to women," she said. Moreover, she said that providing the drug as an OTC, "will be cost-effective because we can remove the cost of a physician's visit in order to get an EC prescription."