US Women May Be Part of Reason Sales of Plan B Spiked in Canada
By Diedtra Henderson
The Boston Globe
Wednesday 21 June 2006
Washington - Since Canadian regulators waived prescriptions for Plan B last year, sales of the emergency contraceptive have nearly doubled, and some of the additional customers are probably American women.
Duramed Pharmaceuticals Inc., Plan B's Canadian manufacturer, sold 23,000 pills to retail pharmacies in January 2005. Now, 41,000 pills are sold by Canadian pharmacies each month, according to figures released yesterday by DoctorSolve Healthcare Solutions, a company that sells drugs through its website.
Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. does not track monthly product transfers to its Canadian subsidiary, Duramed, but a company spokeswoman said inventory figures during that time period confirm the sales trend reported by DoctorSolve.
Judith Soon, a University of British Columbia assistant professor who is conducting an economic evaluation of emergency contraceptive use, said data from IMS Health, a healthcare information firm, also show a spike in Plan B sales after over-the-counter availability in Canada.
"In Canada, women do not require a Plan B prescription from a physician to obtain treatment. It can be obtained directly upon request from a trained pharmacist," Soon said. "As many states border on Canadian provinces, it is likely that women obtain Plan B treatments by crossing the border or through Internet pharmacies. It is not possible to quantify this number."
Plan B is a two-pill product that contains high doses of ingredients found in regular birth-control pills to prevent ovulation, if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. If ovulation already has occurred, it prevents the egg from being fertilized.
Canada eased purchase requirements on April 28, 2005 . In August 2005, the Food and Drug Administration said it would delay its decision on an application filed by Barr to sell Plan B over the counter in the United States.
Barr, based in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., markets 22 generic oral contraceptives under its Barr Laboratories Inc. label and six branded oral contraceptives under the label of its subsidiary, Duramed Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Former FDA commissioner Lester Crawford, during recent questioning under oath as part of a lawsuit filed against the agency, said the FDA held off on a decision regarding over-the-counter Plan B sales to determine how to prevent non prescription sales to girls 16 and younger while still providing access to older women.
Crawford, in the sworn statement, said he had anticipated that review would take no more than nine months, hinting at a long-awaited FDA decision on Plan B by this summer .
The Senate confirmation of Crawford's successor, meanwhile, has been blocked by senators Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, until the FDA announces its decision.