Why is Plan B still so expensive?

 

I am part of a team that is working to bring a vending machine that sells Plan B to the University of California Riverside campus at an affordable price. Currently, it is available at the Student Health Center for $13 if you don’t have UC insurance and it’s free if you do. The Student Health Center is a great resource, but it is only open between 8:30 and 4:30 weekly. This doesn’t help during an emergency at 3 o’clock in the morning where you’re panicking. In local pharmacies, it costs $50-60! That’s expensive, especially if you ever have more than one emergency.

 

(Photo via unsplash by Simone van der Koelen)

 

Emergency contraception (EC) has been available over the counter to people of all ages since 2013. Anyone can purchase it without needing to show ID. Plan B One-Step, the non-generic brand of emergency contraception, is just one pill of 1.5 mg of levonorgestrel. It does not work if the woman is already pregnant and won’t harm an already developing fetus. In 2014, Teva Pharmaceuticals, its then producer, had a hold over the market in a deal with the FDA before generic versions of the pill were allowed to enter the market. Then, Elizabeth Gay, a director with the now defunct Reproductive Health Technologies Project, said: “the price is a result of market forces, company interest and profit.” The American Society for Emergency Contraception (ASEC) published a study in 2018 where they found that the average cost of Plan B was $49, with generic pills costing $39, numbers that haven’t really changed since 2014.

 

(Photo via npr.org )

 

The effectiveness of birth control diminishes as time increases. Therefore, barriers like cost make it difficult for people to have access to EC. While EC is not a form of birth control, it does give women and their partners a degree of agency over their reproductive lives. This issue falls under the umbrella of reproductive justice. Sister Song, the group that coined the term reproductive justice claim that it is “about access, not choice.” They further elaborate by using abortion as an example,

 

“Mainstream movements have focused on keeping abortion legal as an individual choice. That is necessary, but not enough. Even when abortion is legal, many women of color cannot afford it, or cannot travel hundreds of miles to the nearest clinic. There is no choice where there is no access.”

 

We have not had access to EC over the counter and without age restrictions for long. It’s been roughly six years, and yet Plan B is still priced like a luxury good pricing out poor people. By placing such restrictive measures on this essential good, it only makes equitable reproductive justice that much harder to achieve.  It’s about time that we actually put those words into action. It’s absurd that access to agency is not available to all.

P.S: Planned Parenthood has a quiz to determine which emergency contraception is best for you!