Over-the-counter birth control is a post-Roe "game-changer"
The most commonly prescribed contraceptive in America is getting easier to access, if you can afford it or live in the right state.
- The FDA's approval of the first over-the-counter birth control pill, Opill, in the U.S. on Thursday is a "a game changer in terms of access," Dr. Julia Cron, chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, told Axios.
Driving the news: More than 100 countries provide over-the-counter birth control pills without a prescription.
- But similar progress has buckled in the U.S. thanks to lengthy regulatory processes and limited research in reproductive heath, Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, the CEO of reproductive wellbeing nonprofit of Power to Decide, said.
- Opill was the first birth control pill to be considered by the FDA as an over-the-counter option, and it could now pave the way for more, McDonald-Mosley added.
Meanwhile, more pharmacists across the U.S. have gradually been allowed to prescribe birth control, eliminating additional trips to other providers — though still requiring an extra layer of approval.
- Arizona this month joined two dozen states — including Delaware, Nevada and Washington — and Washington, D.C. in allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
State of play: Opill will be available in early 2024 for purchase at drug stores, convenience stores, grocery stores and online. Its cost has not yet been announced.
- It is one of dozens of birth control pill brands that exist, which people may still seek out for personal health or insurance coverage reasons.
- At least 13 states require insurers to cover all over-the-counter contraceptive methods.
Until Opill becomes available over the counter, birth control pills will continue to require a prescription from a doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
- The latter category is typically covered in part by insurance, but it can vary based on brands and providers
Between the lines: One-third of hormonal contraceptive users have missed taking birth control because they weren't able to get their next supply, per a survey from health policy research organization KFF.
- Challenges included costs, lack of insurance, obtaining an appointment or getting to a clinic.
- People have also faced challenges accessing the pill because of language barriers or education levels.
The big picture: Unintended pregnancies are linked to an unmet need for contraception, the CDC has said.
- Experts are hoping the FDA move helps lower this rate.