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'Plan B' Pill to Be Sold Over the Counter

By the end of the year, the emergency contraceptive called "Plan B" will be sold as an over-the-counter drug to people 18 and over. Currently, it is available only by prescription.

The Food and Drug Administration announced its approval for over-the-counter sales on Thursday, after years of debate. The drug, which consists of two high doses of the hormone progestin -- the most common ingredient in regular birth-control pills -- reduces the odds of getting pregnant by 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

Supporters had pushed for over-the-counter sales for teenage girls and women because the drug is most effective if taken within the first three days after unprotected sex. Opponents of the drug have argued that making the product widely available could encourage teens to have sex and might increase the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

The FDA decision allows over-the-counter sales only at pharmacies and other stores where a licensed pharmacist is on duty. Personal identification showing proof of age will be required. For women 17 years old and younger, a doctor's prescription will be necessary to purchase the drug.

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