Plan B, the controversial “morning after” contraceptive pill, will be freely available on Canadian drugstore shelves instead of being kept behind the pharmacy counter.

The drug, which can be taken up to three days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy, has been available without a prescription since 2005. But anyone wanting it had to ask the pharmacist and often fill out a screening form with personal information that was kept in the pharmacy computer.

Paladin Labs Inc., the Montreal-based producer, said yesterday the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities is changing the rules for the sale of Plan B.


“Finally ... fabulous! I’m delighted,” said Toronto lawyer Jane Pepino last night. Pepino chairs the Ontario Women’s Health Council, a long-time opponent of restrictions on the drug.

The council was active in a 2002 pilot project that made the pill available behind the counter in 40 Toronto pharmacies. Some 7,000 women asked for the drug levon-orgestrel, reported to be 95 per cent effective if taken within 24 hours.

“Women were aware of it, using it and giving great feedback,” Pepino said. “One downside was they had to sit in the pharmacy and tell their intimate sexual history in a not terribly private place. But we can only guess how many unwanted pregnancies it prevented.

“There were no good reasons not to make it freely available. I’m such an optimist, I’d hoped it would be two years ago. We’ve been working on it, working on it, working on it.”

She said the delay could have been “a combination of things: General bureaucratic ‘administrivia,’ some pressure perhaps brought by anti-choice people, sensitivity on the part of the government not to be seen to be rushing. To be fair, there was research going on. Now we can point to that body of research and be sure of our ground.”

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