1. Apparently it’s possible to buy the morning-after pill on Amazon. But it might not be the same as what you’d find at your pharmacy.
Vice’s Motherboard reports that a 25-year-old former EMT who identifies himself as “Jeremy A.” ordered six boxes of a generic form of emergency contraception called Opcicon One-Step on Amazon from the vendor Opcicon. When he received his shipment about a week later, he noticed there was a sticker where the expiration date should’ve been printed, and underneath was a patch where the date had been scratched off.
After calling the drug company and inspecting another part of the box, Jeremy learned the pills had expired in July 2016, six months before he ordered them from Amazon. Other Amazon users who ordered from Opcicon left similar complaints in the review section, claiming that the product had been tampered with and the expiration date removed.
3. It turns out, there are a lot of questionable vendors on Amazon selling versions of the morning-after pill for much cheaper than retailers like CVS, Walgreens, and Target.
It’s unclear whether these vendors are actual pharmacies or just people reselling expired products. Either way, most of them do not seem reputable. For example, one vendor is called “Plan B,” — but the real Plan B One-Step is made by Teva Pharmaceuticals, and they don’t sell their products on Amazon — they only sell Plan B One-Step at authorized retailers.
According to Motherboard, Jeremy notified Amazon of the situation and left a claim with the FDA; he was offered a refund and the product has been removed. However, Opcicon still appears on Amazon through other vendors. There’s no way of knowing if the product sold from these retailers is expired — or if it even has an expiration date on the box.
4. Buying potentially expired emergency contraception from unverified online retailers isn’t a good idea. For starters, you might get pregnant.
“If the Plan B is expired, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dangerous and it probably won’t cause harmful side effects, but it does mean it’s going to be less potent and less effective,” said Dweck.
5. And if you’re buying it because you need it for unprotected sex that JUST HAPPENED, you should buy it at the store so you can take it as soon as possible.
The effectiveness of the product decreases the longer you wait to take it after having unprotected sex, so ordering online — even if you choose Prime 2-day shipping — really isn’t a logical choice.
“If someone is buying Plan B on Amazon when they need it and they plan on taking it as soon as possible once it’s delivered, they are really missing the best window of opportunity,” Dweck said.
6. FYI: The morning-after pill is a form of emergency contraception that can prevent pregnancy when taken after unprotected sex, and it’s available over the counter.
There are a few different kinds, but the morning-after pill most often refers to Plan B One-Step, which typically costs around $50 and is effective up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. There are also generics (like Next Choice One Dose, Take Action, and My Way), which are typically cheaper.
There’s also a prescription-only option called Ella, or ulipristal acetate, which can be used up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex. Both Plan B and Ella work primarily by delaying ovulation, and sometimes by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. The morning-after pill will not terminate an existing pregnancy and isn’t the same as the abortion pill, otherwise known as a medical abortion.
7. You can find the morning-after pill at most pharmacies and grocery stories. There is no prescription or proof of age required.
Both Plan B and its generics are available in the pharmacy aisles, but sometimes they are kept behind the physical counter to prevent theft.
8. There’s nothing wrong with stocking your medicine cabinet with an emergency pack, but Dweck recommends buying it from an actual pharmacy and taking note of the expiration date.
“Plenty of women want to have this available so if an emergency or accident does happen, they just have the pill at their disposal and don’t have to rush out and stress and search for it at the store,” said Dweck.
This can be especially helpful if you live far from the nearest retailer selling Plan B, or you know you’ll be traveling out of the country.
“But when you do stock up and buy one or two ahead of time, make sure to check the expiration dates so you know it’ll last for a while,” Dweck said. And you can only check the expiration date when you buy it in the store.
9. If cost or convenience is an issue, you have other options.
- Call your local pharmacies and ask about the price and availability of generic emergency contraception options.
- Call your doctor and ask for help. They may be able to write you a prescription, which could get you the pill at low or no cost (depending on your insurance).
- Call your local Planned Parenthood health center or community clinic to see if you can get the pill at low or no cost, and without giving insurance information (if you’re uninsured or on your parents’ plan and want to be discreet).
- Check Seamless and other third-party delivery services (if they’re available in your area) to see if any stores will deliver it to you. This probably won’t bring down the cost (it might even be more expensive), but you might be able to get it delivered same-day. (P.S. I tried this and it really works.)
- Ask your doctor about a method that’s more reliable and more affordable.
10. “If you’re taking the morning-after pill frequently, you might want to choose a more reliable, effective form of birth control,” Dweck said.
Another option if you’re already planning on taking the morning-after pill is the copper IUD, which can be used for both emergency contraception and long-term birth control. It’s extremely effective as emergency contraception if inserted within five days of unprotected sex, Dweck said. Plus it offers reversible pregnancy protection for up to 10 years.
Here’s more advice on finding the right birth control method for you.
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