Plan B Roulette

The self-regulating free market in action:

A whopping 28 percent of morning-after pills in Peru are fake. A study published today inPLOS ONE relates how some emergency contraceptives contain inadequate amounts of active ingredients that, in many cases, aren’t being released quickly enough into the body to be considered effective. This, the researchers say, means that nearly one third of the pills — pills that are sold by licensed pharmacists — offer no protection against unwanted pregnancy.

In the study, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology tested 25 batches of emergency contraceptives purchased from 15 pharmacies and distributors in Lima, Peru. Of those 25 batches, seven didn’t dissolve quickly enough. Yet that performance was still slightly better than that of a batch that didn’t contain contraceptive ingredients at all. Instead, the researchers say, the pills were laced with an antibiotic that could have caused some women to experience dangerous allergic reactions. The scientists therefore conclude that the pills would have been useless to anyone who purchased them.

On the plus side, I’m sure there are many Plan B brands in Peru, so the sovereign free men and women there can experience the pleasure of unfettered choice without some unelected government bureaucrat restricting the operation of their God-given free will.

30 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    But I bet the pills are more affordable.

  2. 2
    Joel says:

    The Fukuyama legacy lives!

  3. 3
    Baud says:

    The best libertarian proposal I’ve heard on this type of issue is that the market should determine the amount of airline safety we should have.

  4. 4
    WereBear says:

    Of all the stupid Libertarians claim to believe, letting the market sort out the safety issues is the most massively stupid to me.

    Of course, if they had their way, there wouldn’t be any labeling, either. Good luck with that, folks! Life is an adventure!

  5. 5
    Gindy51 says:

    @Baud: Thank dog my spouse is retiring from flying next year….

  6. 6
    aimai says:

    @WereBear: Here, have some tic tacs , Plan B.

  7. 7
    Baud says:


    if they had their way, there wouldn’t be any labeling,

    There’s a effort by corporations right now to overturn labeling laws as a violation of free speech. Stay tuned.

  8. 8
    kbuttle says:

    On the bright side, it’s probably meant many single cell babies being saved from the ravaging pain of non-implantation.

  9. 9
    Roger Moore says:


    There’s a effort by corporations right now to overturn labeling laws as a violation of free speech.

    I a world with a sane Supreme Court, this would be laughed out of court; instead it stands a disgustingly large chance of succeeding.

  10. 10
    Mnemosyne says:


    On the bright side, it’s probably meant many single cell babies being saved from the ravaging pain of non-implantation.

    Not at all — Plan B only prevents ovulation. It does not prevent implantation.

    But it probably has embarrassed a bunch of sperm who swam their hardest, only to discover that there was no egg waiting for them, and we can’t have men being embarrassed by proxy.

  11. 11
    Schlemizel says:

    @Roger Moore:
    You beat me to it. If money is speech than so are product labels! It would be a violation of the 1st amendment to force out corporate persons to say things on them that they don’t want to say.

    In the late 1800’s a diet aid was sold that really worked. Each one contained a tape worm larva. Damn government stepped in and stopped that with their intrusive laws. I am going to do some googling to see if I can start a tape worm farm, I see a huge potential for profit in my future.

  12. 12
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @WereBear: The libertarian solution to hitting glare ice while driving is to take your hands off the steering wheel and let the market decide.

  13. 13
    Russ says:

    Vermont has a GMO labeling bill working it’s way through the legislature and in have allocated 1.5 million dollars for the ensuing court challenge by Monsanto. Free speech rights of Monsanto going to be trampled and all that……..

  14. 14
    scav says:

    Those corporate individuals were expressing their moral concerns by fake pills! And asking for ingredients is an invasion of their privacy! If their god tells them ground up monkey meat is Kosher and Puppies make better Burger Patties, they have the Religious Freedum to spread the good word! See the Gosple of Alum, Brick Dust et alia of the prior to the so-called Progressive Age!

  15. 15
    WaterGirl says:

    I wonder if the same thing is true of most prescription drugs in Peru or whether these results would only be true for plan b, because of what it does.

  16. 16
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @WaterGirl: That is a good question. Were other OTC medications tested for effectiveness? If they screw with Plan B formulas, why not screw with other medications in the name of sacred profit as well?

  17. 17
    WaterGirl says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: that’s the thing. Is profit the motivator, or is the purpose to not have this particular pill do what it’s supposed to do?

  18. 18
    AMinNC says:

    Stories like these make me wish Democrats were consistent and forceful in articulating a case for the good that government does. If you like medicines that actually contain the ingredients they’re supposed to, or like meat inspections, or air-traffic control, or don’t like lead in your paint, or want contracts you sign to actually mean something – thank the government. Not to mention Social Security and Medicare and other social insurance programs.

    The ACA is another case in point. It is insane that so many democrats are running away from this law rather than highlighting the huge numbers of lives being made better (and hammering non-medicaid expansion governors with the lives being lost).

    Conservatives have demonized the government, basically unopposed, for the past few decades, and it is imperative for liberals/progressives to take that narrative back – to re-cast the government as us, and then elect lawmakers who will vote that way (rather than voting as if the government is of, by, and for the .01%).

  19. 19
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @Mnemosyne: It looks like Plan B works multiple ways:


    Emergency contraceptives are not effective if the woman is already pregnant. Plan B ® is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization (by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova). In addition, it may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium). It is not effective once the process of implantation has begun.

    (from (8 page .pdf).


  20. 20
    Cassidy says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Who knows? I don’t put anything past the jeebus worshipping death cultists.

  21. 21
    Mnemosyne says:


    The whole “prevents implantation” idea is a theory that never panned out:

    The newest and most reliable evidence comes from two recent studies (published in 2007 and 2011) in which women who came to clinics for EC were monitored to assess each woman’s menstrual cycle day. Among women who took EC before ovulation, none became pregnant. The women who took EC on the day of ovulation or after became pregnant at the rate that would be expected if they hadn’t used any contraception. This provides compelling evidence that levonorgestrel EC works by inhibiting or delaying ovulation, but is ineffective after ovulation has already occurred (and therefore would not be effective in preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg).

    I get pedantic about this because the “prevents implantation” theory is what the forced birthers use to claim that the Pill and Plan B are “abortion pills.” In reality, they suppress ovulation, with very little evidence that they prevent implantation, and a fair amount of evidence showing they don’t prevent it.

  22. 22
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Mnemosyne: Exactly. The assholes are using the “abortion pill” argument in support of the Jeebofascist scum of Hobby Lobby.

  23. 23
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @WaterGirl: Given that Peru is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, the latter cannot be easily dismissed.

  24. 24
    kbuttle says:

    I was glad for the correction, but think implantatation is a pretty strange post to hitch onto in any event.

  25. 25
    Mnemosyne says:


    I was glad for the correction, but think implantatation is a pretty strange post to hitch onto in any event.

    It’s not like the forced birthers are logical in any way, shape, or form, and they do use the theory about implantation to claim that the Pill causes “abortions.”

    I really do think that their freakout about contraception is that they feel like women are “rejecting” men’s sperm, and that cannot be allowed.

  26. 26
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @Mnemosyne: Thanks for the push-back. I agree that getting this right is important, but the US distributor is still using the language I originally posted.

    Unfortunately, as we know, opponents will construct things out of whole cloth no matter what the facts are. If there are remaining questions about how Plan B may work in some cases, it’s fair to list the possible mechanisms.

    Supporting your side is this – Apparently the identical drug is labeled differently outside the US –

    European health authorities have made two significant changes to the label of an emergency contraception pill that is equivalent to Plan B One-Step. One of the changes could be relevant to two cases that the Supreme Court added to its docket on Tuesday.

    The new label of the drug, Norlevo, says it “cannot stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb,” contradicting a claim by some abortion opponents that has fueled their objections to the Affordable Care Act.

    Of course, it may simply be a case of the US distributor not bothering to update their literature with the latest information. One wonders why they haven’t changed the labeling in the US…



  27. 27
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    I really do think that their freakout about contraception is that they feel like women are “rejecting” men’s sperm, and that cannot be allowed.

    Oh, it goes beyond that, I think, and the place it goes is even uglier. The idea that women can pick and choose when to do their “Duty to the Party” and bring a new human into the world outrages them. For one thing, the slut is exhibiting agency, and for another thing, they’re rejecting the holy seed of the dick.

    Plus, they might even be enjoying it, which makes them sluts, for sure.

  28. 28
    Mnemosyne says:


    I do wish the manufacturers would update it, because I think it misleads consumers. Unfortunately, I think that’s the FDA’s call, and it’s too “controversial” for them to make the change.

  29. 29
    another Holocene human says:

    @Joel: Fukuyama, the conservawanker historian, or Alberto Fujimori?

    I’m not looking at any kanji but the first name sounds the same as “mountain of clothes”, while the second is an evocative Mt Fuji Forest.

  30. 30
    another Holocene human says:

    The best part about Fujimori (see wikipedia is you’re lost/didn’t follow news in the 1990s) is that he was an arch authoritarian asshole who like Swaggart was brought low by his sins-graft, in this case-and fled like a pissy Snowden or Yanukivych when he was about to be called to task.

    Bad timing- only a few more years and he could have joined Ws coalition of the willing.

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