Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Birth Control Health Center

Font Size

FDA to Decide Status of Morning-After Pill

Agency Nears Decision on Over-the-Counter Sale of Drug Known as 'Plan B'

How Well Does Plan B Work?

To prevent pregnancy, Plan B should be used as soon as possible after sex. That's why family planners encourage sexually active women who do not want to become pregnant to keep an emergency contraceptive in their medicine chest.

Theoretically, Plan B should work until the fertilized egg is implanted in the womb. It's been tested for up to five days, Plourd says -- but it's strongly recommended that women use it within 72 hours of sex.

If 100 women have sex one time during a single menstrual cycle -- without using any form of contraceptive -- eight of them will get pregnant.

If those same 100 women take Plan B within 72 hours of sex, two of them will become pregnant. That, Plourd says, means it's 75% effective.

"Preventing pregnancy 75% of the time is less than almost every other form of contraception," Plourd says. "That is why it is plan B, not plan A."

How Safe Is Plan B?

Julie A. Johnson, PharmD, chairwoman of the University of Florida department of pharmacy practice, was a member of the 2003 FDA advisory panel that voted to approve Plan B for over-the-counter sale.

"I've been on this committee, the Nonprescription Drug Advisory Committee, for almost four years, and I would take this to be the safest product that we have seen brought before us," Johnson said in a transcript of the panel meetings. Johnson voted with the majority for nonprescription approval.

Few argue that Plan B is unsafe for adult women. But some of the panelists expressed concern that the drug had not been tested in enough teenage girls. And panel chairman Louis R. Cantilena Jr., MD, PhD, worried that tests of Plan B -- designed to mimic actual use of the drug -- did not reflect the way the drug would be used in real-life nonprescription situations.

"My concern [with the Plan B actual-use safety study] is that it doesn't accurately reflect what will likely be the most common setting for this product based on what we've heard," Cantilena said in the transcript. "So the actual use [study] was not as close to possible to what we think will actually happen with the drug." Cantilena voted with the minority to disallow nonprescription sales of Plan B.

Today on WebMD

Here's what to expect.
man opening condom wrapper
Do you know the right way to use them?
birth control pills
Here's what to do next.
doctor and patient
His and her options.
Concerned teenage girl
hospital gown
Birth Control Pills Weight Gain
Ortho Evra Birth Control Patch
contraceptive pills
Young couple looking at each other, serious
woman reading pregnancy test result