What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell us

Plan B could go O.T.C.

Bob Moon Dec 7, 2011

Stacey Vanek Smith: The Food and Drug Administration is set to rule today on a request to remove age restrictions from the “morning-after” contraceptive pill. Plan B is is currently kept behind pharmacy counters, and you have to be at least 17 to buy it.
If the FDA approves, Plan B could soon move to store shelves.

Bob Moon has more.


Bob Moon: Sales of the Plan B pill have been on the rise since the drug received its age-restricted over-the-counter status five years ago. And future sales could be astronomical if it comes out from behind the counter altogether.

So says professor Ken Kaitin at Tufts University School of Medicine. He says drug makers have learned they can milk more profits from their popular brand names by removing the requirement for a prescription.

Ken Kaitin: In fact, in many cases, the sales of the over-the-counter product exceeded the sales of the patented product — in other words, when it was still prescription-only.

Consider the first year that blockbuster allergy treatment Claritin was approved for non-prescription use: Shering-Plough saw a 90 percent jump in sales of its over-the-counter drugs.

Laura Mahecha follows the health care industry for Kline Market Research. She says there’s another benefit: Non-prescription drugs tend to be cheaper, although insurance providers end up saving the most.

Laura Mehecha: Once it goes O.T.C., they no longer have to cover it.

So consumers end up paying for the convenience.

I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.