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FDA is OK with Plan B vending machine at Shippensburg University

23 January 2013 No Comment

By AMBER SOUTH
@ShipNewsGirl

An official with the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday the agency will take no regulatory action against Shippensburg University for selling Plan B from a vending machine.

A vending machine in the health center at Shippensburg University contains Plan B One Step emergency contraceptive. (Courtesy)

“FDA looked at publicly available information about Shippenburg (University’s) vending program and spoke with university and campus health officials and decided not to take any regulatory actions,” Erica Jefferson, deputy director of the FDA office of public affairs, said in an e-mail to Public Opinion.

A vending machine out of which SU students can buy the Plan B One Step emergency contraceptive for $25 became national news after Public Opinion reported on it almost a year ago.

Plan B is “birth control you can use to prevent pregnancy up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex” according to the Planned Parenthood website.

University officials initiated an evaluation to determine if an alternate method should be used after questions arose concerning the availability of the contraceptive to individuals under age 17, the age a person must be to legally buy it over-the-counter. The evaluation yielded no change in the university’s Plan B dispensing method.

University officials met with a variety of groups on campus including alumni, trustees, the University Forum and Student Senate to discuss the availability of the pill, said Peter Gigliotti, director of communications for the university.

“Both the Student Senate and the University Forum passed resolutions that the medication should continue to be dispensed,” he said in an e-mail.

University President Bill Ruud said last year the evaluation would also involve contacting other higher education institutions across the country about their dispensing methods. According to Gigliotti, that research found Plan B is available at institutions across the state and nation and is considered by experts in the field of college medicine to be part of the standard of care.

The vending machine containing Plan B still stands in a room inside the health center, but there is now an additional card reader students must use before they can gain access, Gigliotti said.

“The reader, adjacent to the check-in desk, is just another way to check that the individual is both a student and over the designated age,” he added.

The machine will move to the new health center in McLean Hall II, one of the university’s new residence halls that will also house the health and counseling centers, just prior to demolition starting on the current health center after students return from spring break March 25, Gigliotti said. The plan is part of a larger project to replace all of the university’s residence halls.

The university began dispensing Plan B through a vending machine about three years ago.

Roger Serr, university vice president for student affairs, told Public Opinion last year the machine was requested by the SU Student Association shortly after the FDA lifted a restriction on the pill that limited its non-prescriptive sale to individuals older than 18 in 2009.

He said the availability of the contraceptive at area pharmacies influenced the university’s decision to dispense it through a vending machine.

The university sells the contraceptive at cost and uses money from sales to purchase more product.

“No state-supported or taxpayer-supported dollars are used for this service and students, as part of the support services offered by the university, have the opportunity to discuss Plan B and any important decisions in their lives with medical, pastoral or counseling staff,” Gigliotti said.

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Amber South can be reached at asouth@publicopinionnews.com and 262-4771.

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