First over-the-counter birth control pill in the US will be available soon

The drug, called Opill, which was approved for sale without a prescription by the Food and Drug Administration last year, will be the most effective birth control available without a prescription, research shows: more effective than condoms, spermicides and others over-the-counter products. methods.

Reproductive health experts said its availability could be especially helpful for teens, young women and others who struggle to deal with the time, costs or logistical hurdles of visiting a doctor to get a prescription.

Some experts said they thought it could be a particularly good option for teens who might otherwise rely on condoms.

Lupe M. Rodríguez, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, said in a statement Monday that “over-the-counter access to contraception will greatly reduce barriers such as transportation, cost, language and documentation.” .

Opill is not a new drug: it was approved for prescription use 50 years ago. Reproductive health experts and members of an FDA advisory panel cited its long history of safety and effectiveness. It is 93 percent effective in preventing pregnancy with typical use. Women with certain conditions (mainly breast cancer or undiagnosed vaginal bleeding) should not take Opill. But for most women, “the risk is very low and almost nonexistent if they read and follow the label,” Karen Murry, deputy director of the FDA’s office of nonprescription drugs, said in a memo explaining the approval decision. .

Since the Supreme Court struck down the national right to abortion in 2022, accessibility to contraception has become an increasingly urgent issue. But long before that, the decision to make an over-the-counter pill available to all ages had received widespread support from adolescent and reproductive health groups and specialists.

Opill’s passage faced very little public opposition from conservative groups that often criticize measures that increase access to abortion, emergency contraception and sex education. Opposition appeared to come primarily from some Catholic organizations and Students for Life Action.

in a survey in 2022 by health research organization KFFMore than three-quarters of women of reproductive age said they preferred an over-the-counter pill, mainly because of its convenience.

Opill is known as a “mini pill” because it contains only one hormone, progestin, unlike “combination” pills, which contain both progestin and estrogen. Cadence Health, a company that makes a combination pill, is also in talks with the FDA about potentially applying for over-the-counter status.

Perrigo said Monday that Opill can be pre-ordered at some online retailers. Retailers will also sell a three-month pack of Opill priced at $49.99. The company’s Opill.com website will also sell the three-month pack, as well as a six-month supply that will cost $89.99.

In its announcement, Perrigo said the company would provide a “cost assistance program” to “help qualified low-income and uninsured people obtain Opill at low or no cost.”

Making the pill affordable for all women remains a goal of reproductive health advocates, many of whom said Monday that the cost would be out of reach for some populations.

“As a high school student in Texas who struggled to take the pill under the current system and faced social stigma while trying, I know firsthand how important it is to ensure that young people can walk into a store and easily access the contraceptives they they need. “Maia López, 17, a member of the FreeThePill Youth Council of the nonprofit Advocates for Youth, said in a statement. “While today is a big step forward, the price is still high for many teenagers I know.”

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans to pay for prescription contraceptives, but not over-the-counter methods. Some states have laws requiring coverage of over-the-counter birth control, but most do not.

He KFF survey found that 10 percent of women could not or would not be willing to pay any out-of-pocket costs for contraception. About 40 percent would pay $10 or less per month, and about a third would pay between $11 and $20.

Three Democratic senators, Patty Murray of Washington, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, issued a statement Monday urging passage of legislation require insurers to cover over-the-counter contraceptives. They have also pressured the federal government to do something similar under a executive order to improve access to contraception that President Biden signed last year.

“The work doesn’t end here; more needs to be done to ensure that all Americans can access and afford the pill without a prescription,” the senators said.