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'Plan B' on the way to shelves sans limits

| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 7:15 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The morning-after pill is going over-the-counter.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved unrestricted sales of Plan B One-Step, lifting all age limits on the emergency contraceptive.

The move occurred a week after the Obama administration ended months of back-and-forth legal battles by promising a federal judge that it would take that step. Women's health advocates had pushed for easier access to next-day birth control for more than a decade.

“Over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptive products has the potential to further decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States,” FDA drug chief Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement announcing the approval.

It wasn't clear how quickly Plan B One-Step would move from behind pharmacy counters to sit on pharmacy shelves. Until now, customers could buy that morning-after pill and competing generic versions without a prescription only if they proved to a pharmacist that they were 17 or older.

The FDA said the product must be repackaged to reflect the change;. Maker Teva Women's Health didn't immediately respond.

The agency, though, has not lifted age limits on competing generics.

The morning-after pill contains a higher dose of the hormone in regular birth-control pills. Taking it within 72 hours of rape, condom failure or just forgetting traditional contraception can cut the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent.

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