Just as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is on the verge of allowing underage girls to get the morning-after pill with no doctor's oversight or parental involvement, bad news about the drug comes out of India.
"A vascular disease called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is on the rise and doctors say it has a lot to do with the increase in sales of over-the-counter contraceptive pills.
"The percentage of DVT in women has seen an increase and frequencies of the disease are found in women taking birth control pills or contraceptives without any prescription," said Rajiv Parakh, chairman of the division of peripheral vascular and endovascular sciences at Medanta hospital.
The number of cases of DVT among young women suddenly increased at the same time that the morning-after pill has been aggressively advertised. Sales of the drug increased 250 percent in one year in India, with nearly 8.2 million of the pills sold in 2009.
DVT is a blood clot in a deep vein. Blood clots are a known complication of birth control pills. The morning-after pill is a high dose of birth control pills.
"Any amount of estrogen that is not required by the female body is harmful for her. The pills tend to increase the hormone level, resulting in pain and swelling caused by blood clot formation in the veins," Nutan Agrawal, professor of gynecology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences told Thaindian News.
As expected, teens choose the over-the-counter drug as their birth control method of choice because it's easy to get. "Because of the availability of drugs with retailers, these contraceptives have become the quick fix to abortions in a very short span of time," Agrawal said.
Here in the U.S., Teva, the company that owns the morning-after pill Plan B, has asked the FDA to approve its drug for over-the-counter use for anyone. Currently, anyone under 17 needs a prescription to buy it.
When I originally testified against over-the-counter access to Plan B, I pointed out the possible medical risks -- including blood clots. Officials ignored the risks to women, apparently rationalizing that the low-dose birth control pills can also cause blood clots.
What they conveniently overlooked is that birth control pills require a prescription. Doctors can warn women of the risks, and of what will increase their risks (like smoking), before giving a prescription. The patients will also have someone to call -- the prescribing doctor -- if they suspect complications. With over-the-counter access, women mistakenly believe the drug is completely safe and needs no medical consultation.
The FDA and abortion groups -- the loudest backers of the morning-after pill -- act as if access to birth control is a higher priority than medical risks to women. But they've got it easy. They are not held responsible when women end up in the hospital.