In 2009, getting access to emergency contraception (EC) like Plan B, got a whole lot easier for people 17 and older. The FDA made it possible to get the morning-after pill over-the-counter, without a prescription. In 2013, they lowered the age to 15.
While having access to EC that doesn't come through a healthcare provider can be and has been important for people who are uninsured or young people who may be embarrassed about their need for the pill to talk to their parents or a doctor, a new Vice report shows how important it is to be careful about where you're sourcing your morning-after pills.
A source who goes only by Jeremy A., a former EMT and pharmacy technician, told Vice's Motherboard that he ordered six boxes of a generic emergency contraceptive, called Opcicon One-Step, from Amazon after the election because he was worried about what a Trump presidency would mean for access to EC.
But he noticed something off in the packaging once his order arrived. The expiration date for his pills had been scratched off of all six boxes. Jeremy learned from the maker of Opcicon that each individual pill should also have an expiration date, and that if he didn't rip the foil when opening the pill package he should see it there.
All of the pills Jeremy bought had expired in July of 2016.
Unlike eating expired food, taking expired medication usually isn't harmful for your health. The expiration dates on medications point to times when they are at peak potency, meaning that an expired medication likely won't be as effective.
In the case of pills like Opcicon and Plan B, that means that a pill that already has a 5 to 11% chance of failure, has even greater risk of resulting in an unplanned (and often unwanted) pregnancy.
While there may be some legitimate and safe sources for morning-after pills on Amazon, others have noted problems with expiration dates on their orders.
One vendor has 4-star reviews, but several of the 10 people who took the time to review the drug mentioned that there was no expiration date on the box.
While the out-of-date medication is worrying enough, Jennifer Gunter, MD, an OB-GYN, told Motherboard that there's a bigger concern for anyone who may have taken these pills.
"My issue with this is if a box is tampered with in any way, never ever use the medication. Ever," she told Motherboard. "Tampering with medications is illegal and unethical and if they have tampered with one thing, what else have they tampered with?"
While we understand the impulse to buy Plan B in bulk, especially given our current political climate, please be careful about where you're getting medications like Plan B — and always check for an expiration date before taking any pills.