The Food and Drug Administration approved the first birth control pill to be sold in the US without a prescription on Thursday, a landmark step that could greatly increase access to contraception.
The birth control pill, known as Opill, will overtake condoms, spermicides, and other over-the-counter birth control techniques as the most efficient means for preventing conception. Its accessibility, according to experts in reproductive health, may be especially beneficial for young women, teenagers, and people who find it difficult to manage the time, expense, or logistical challenges associated with visiting a doctor to receive a prescription.
The birth control pill maker, the Dublin-based Perrigo Company, said that Opill would likely start to be sold in American stores and online merchants in the first few months of 2024.
Accessible and affordable to women and people of all ages
Frédérique Welgryn, Perrigo’s global vice president for women’s health, said in a statement that the company was committed to making the pill “accessible and affordable to women and people of all ages.” However, the company declined to disclose the cost of the medication, which is a crucial question that will help determine how many people will use the pill. Additionally, Ms. Welgryn stated that the business would establish a customer assistance program to give certain women the pill for free.
With today’s approval, millions more Americans will now have access to a nonprescription daily oral contraceptive, according to a statement from Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the F.D.A.‘s Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research. “When used as directed, daily oral contraception is safe and expected to be more effective than currently available nonprescription contraceptive methods in preventing unintended pregnancy.”
1st over-the-counter birth control pill gets FDA approval
The availability of contraception has grown in importance since the Supreme Court reversed the nation’s right to abortion last year. But long before that, organizations like the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, as well as experts in reproductive and adolescent health, had backed the idea of making a nonprescription pill accessible to all ages.
More than 75% of women of reproductive age who participated in a KFF survey last year said they preferred over-the-counter medications, mostly for reasons of convenience. Almost 40% of respondents stated they were likely to utilize it. According to the survey, Hispanic women, those who currently use birth control pills, and those without health insurance were more likely to choose the product.
Astonishingly, many anti-abortion organizations have refrained from criticizing over-the-counter birth control during a time of ferocious disagreements over abortion. Students for Life Action and some Catholic organizations seem to be the main sources of opposition.
Including obstetricians-gynecologists, adolescent medicine specialists, a breast cancer specialist, and experts in consumer health behavior and health literacy, a panel of 17 independent scientific advisers to the F.D.A. unanimously decided in May that the advantages of making birth control pills available without a prescription vastly outweighed the risks. The panel underlined Opill’s extensive track record of efficacy and safety, which dates back to when it was authorized for prescription use 50 years ago. The pharmaceutical drug’s prescription equivalent, which has a typical use efficacy of 93% in preventing pregnancy, will be available over the counter.
An over-the-counter solution is urgently needed for public health in a nation where almost half of pregnancies are unwanted, according to a number of panelists.