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CNN Today

Morning-After Pill Manufacturers Seek FDA Approval

Aired February 5, 2001 - 4:10 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: The makers of a so-called "morning-after" birth control pill are seeking approval to sell their product without a prescription. Now, this pill can prevent women from becoming pregnant after they have unprotected sex or if their contraceptive fails.

On that, here's medical correspondent Rhonda Rowland.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This situation is all too common.

CANDICE GRAHAM: Me and my boyfriend were here. And usually we use condoms whenever we have sexual intercourse, but we had just run out.

ROWLAND: But Candice Graham, a college sophomore, had heard about emergency conception, high doses of the hormones found in birth control pills that can be taken within 72 hours of unprotected to prevent pregnancy.

GRAHAM: I went to the doctor and -- to get it just to be on the safe side.

ROWLAND: But trying to be safe turned out to be nearly impossible.

GRAHAM: I had to wait for a very long time to get it. It was kind of like an all-day event.

ROWLAND: That could soon change. The first step is now being taken to make Plan B, a type of emergency contraception, available over the counter without a doctor's prescription.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know these methods work much better the sooner the treatment is started. And so this is a no-brainer. It has to be available in pharmacies, and it has to be available on weekends.

ROWLAND: Health experts believe if widely used, this so-called "morning-after" pill could cut the abortion rate by half.

DR. MIMI ZIEMAN, GRADY/EMORY HEALTH SYSTEM: Whether you are pro- abortion or anti-abortion, it's estimated that increased use of EC can reduce up to a million unintended pregnancies a year.

ROWLAND: Most anti-abortion groups have not taken a stand on emergency contraception. But there is some opposition.

JUDIE BROWN, AMERICAN LIFE LEAGUE: What we have a problem with is playing Russian roulette with the potential that a life begins at conception could have begun at conception and will be taken.

ROWLAND: Doctors say the pills work by preventing ovulation, fertilization or implantation of a fertilized egg. In an unusual move, the American Medical Association is supporting efforts to make the "morning-after" pill available without a prescription.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLAND: The makers of Plan B will have been meeting with the FDA this afternoon to discuss studies they'd like to conduct to determine if the emergency contraception can be taken safely over-the- counter. There's no word yet if the FDA is giving the green light, but going into the meeting the company was optimistic -- Joie.

CHEN: Rhonda, is this the same thing as what we call the abortion pill?

ROWLAND: It is not, but it is often confused. Again, the morning-after bill or emergency contraception is taken as a precautionary measure. A woman has no idea if she is pregnant. She is trying to prevent a pregnancy. And if she is pregnant and she takes this medication, it will have no effect, no impact, on that established pregnancy. On the other hand, RU-486, the so-called abortion bill, is used to terminate an established pregnancy. So, quite different -- Joie.

CHEN: All right, Rhonda Rowland, out in our news room at this hour.

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