Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About...
Emergency Contraception Over the Counter
Q&A About OTC Access to Emergency Contraception (EC)
In the U.S., progestin-only EC is available on the shelf without age restrictions to women and men. Look for Plan B One-Step, Take Action, Next Choice One-Dose, My Way or other generics in the family planning aisle.
Where can emergency contraception be sold at the pharmacy?
Regulations on the sale of EC have changed frequently, so it can be quite confusing for consumers. Here is more information about how the different brands of EC are sold:
Progestin-only EC (like Plan B One-Step and its generic forms Take Action, Next Choice One Dose and My Way) are approved for unrestricted sale on store shelves. Even though the package directions for the generics say that it’s intended for use by women ages 17 and older, anyone can buy it without needing to show ID. Plan B One-Step usually costs about $40-$50, and the generics cost about $35-$45.
- If you want to use insurance to purchase EC, go to the pharmacy counter and ask for help.
- You can order a generic form of Plan B One-Step at www.afterpill.com for $20 + $5 shipping. This site does not offer expedited shipping, so it's not meant for emergency use, but you can stock up and keep it on hand for future use.
- ella is sold by prescription only, regardless of age. You can also order ella through an online prescription service for $59, including shipping.
Is emergency contraception covered under the Affordable Care Act (healthcare reform)?
The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods and to cover them without imposing extra charges, like co-pays. This provision went into effect for new health plans starting on August 1, 2012; it may be unclear how EC will be covered in some plans. Each plan may not cover every brand of EC, or over-the-counter products. The best way to find out if EC is covered by a plan is to call the insurance company. The National Women’s Law Center provides a very helpful guide to what questions to ask an insurance company to understand its contraceptive coverage. Ask which brands of EC might be covered, and find out if the plan requires a prescription for insurance coverage. If a plan does not cover over-the-counter EC, encourage customers to get a prescription so that they will have coverage.
Can purchasers of EC OTC still get Medicaid reimbursement?
Because Medicaid policies differ in each individual state, there won’t be one answer to this question. Right now, Medicaid covers no OTC product in approximately one third of states; some OTC products in one third of states, and several OTC products in the other third. However, many states with Medicaid coverage for OTC products require prescriptions for the OTC products.
Can pharmacies provide EC to women under 17 years old?
Yes - both the brand (Plan B One-Step) and generic EC products (like Take Action and Next Choice One Dose) can be sold directly on store shelves without prescription to anyone, regardless of age (check the family planning aisle). The product insert for generic products state that it is intended for use by women aged 17 and older, but proof of ID is not required to purchase the product. Some stores may keep EC behind the pharmacy counter to protect against theft due to the high cost of the product, but to ensure timely access to EC, stores should make every effort to make it easily accessible. ella is available by prescription only, regardless of age.
Can pharmacies sell EC to a man? An older sister of a 16 year-old? A woman who is buying it “just in case”?
Yes. Any person of any age can purchase EC without needing to show ID.
How much product can I sell and how much can a customer buy?
There is no limit to the number of doses of progestin-only EC (Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, Next Choice or Levonorgestrel Tablets) that can be bought or sold over the counter. The only product that can be sold by prescription is the two-pill generic product Levonorgestrel Tablets. If it is sold by prescription, a dose limit may be indicated by the prescriber.
Are Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, Next Choice and Levonorgestrel Tablets available OTC in clinics?
Yes. Most clinics carry progestin-only EC, and may also offer ella. Some may also offer the copper IUD as EC.
Is ella available OTC?
No - ella (ulipristal acetate) is sold by prescription only.