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How Long Until Birth Control Pills Are Sold Over the Counter?

How Long Until Birth Control Pills Are Sold Over the Counter?

The nation’s largest group of obstetricians and gynecologists recommended birth control pills be sold over the counter, just like condoms.

The surprise announcement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists could help bolster efforts by public health officials to make the pill more widely available. Proponents of making the pill available over the counter argue that oral contraceptives are some of the safest and most effective drugs on the market but political pressures make accessing them far too difficult. For example, most doctors prescribe the pill for one year and require women to receive a full pelvic exam before renewing that prescription despite the fact that research has shown annual Pap smears are unnecessary and can lead to false positives and expensive follow-up testing. Add in the fact that insurance companies often only dole out pills one month at a time and its easy to see the savings associated by putting the pill on the shelves.

Eradicating institutional inefficiencies is one motivator behind the announcement. Another is the fact that half the nation’s pregnancies each year are unintended, causing significant strain on the public health system. “It’s unfortunate that in this country where we have all these contraceptive methods available, unintended pregnancy is still a major public health problem,” Dr. Kavita Nanda, a scientist with the North Carolina nonprofit FHI 360, formerly known as Family Health International told The Huffington Post.

In order for such a reality to exist, a company would first have to be granted permission by the government and it’s unclear at this time if any are considering it. And there is the issue of cost. Obamacare requires FDA-approved contraceptives to be available without co-pays for women enrolled in most employer-provided workplace insurance plans. If the pill were sold without a prescription, it wouldn’t be covered under that provision. ACOG addressed this issue, noting that on average, uninsured women pay $16 per month’s supply.

This may not be the fight the Obama administration was looking for, but they may end up having it. And making the pill available over the counter and without a prescription may be just the answer to the endless litigation by religious extremists to the contraception mandate. Assuming the cost issue is worked out, I can’t think of anything that would both serve critical public health needs and drive the hard right bonkers quite like the pill available right next to the aspirin. Let’s do this.

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Photo from M.Markus via flickr.

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125 comments

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10:01PM PDT on May 4, 2013

Can't be soon enough. With a population of 7+ billion people...bring it on now!

1:22PM PST on Feb 22, 2013

the sooner the better. these people concerned with "side effects" must not read the backs of any over the counter meds. All medicines have potential side effects, and some have severe ones! Some can't be taken together, some have ingredients with different names (which can cause accidental overdose when coupled with other medicines that contain the same ingredient) some, if taken with alcohol, can kill or seriously. If you aren't responsible enough to take a BC pill and read the warnings, you aren't responsible enough to take any over the counter medicine without guidance of someone who can read

7:52AM PST on Jan 16, 2013

Another suggestion from insurance companies under the facade of medical advice!!! An extraordinary burden of finances and responsibility on women, yet again. Let's see, what shall I spend my 2/3 salary on this month - birth control or food? Shameful.

1:19PM PST on Dec 17, 2012

This would be a great idea if everyone had health care they can afford and make sure to tell their doctors that they're using birth control.

5:03AM PST on Dec 8, 2012

What about the side effects? Who will be monitoring for them?

12:58AM PST on Dec 3, 2012

Abstinence can work as I - a fifty-three celibate male - can tell you. It's also permissible in the Bible as 1 Corinthians Ch 7, v 5 advises us: 'Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control'.

12:29AM PST on Dec 3, 2012

If birth control means side effects on women then I would be opposed to it. If birth control methods mean sex being enjoyed as recreational sex .. need I say more. Let's get sex back to what Our Father God created it for: the procreation of the next generation.

9:02AM PST on Dec 1, 2012

Jessica N. Your suggested birth control method is very interesting but I wonder why you would recommend for married women. Since women have long years where they are fertile, and conceivably have 13 to 16 children apiece as my great grand mother did, do you recommend that marriages should be celibate after the number of children that they can afford have been born? Interesting! But probably not workable.

3:37PM PST on Nov 30, 2012

Birth control pills are only supposed to be used for two years then discontinued because they will wreck your liver and your gallbladder. They are bad business, especially the generic brand.

Please do your research. Black box warnings are there for a reason.

Also, the best birth control is closing your legs. And it costs NOTHING!

8:08AM PST on Nov 30, 2012

Of COURSE it helps "in the end!"

If I visit an ob/gyn....have an exam, learn how to use OTC contraceptives and get a "physician's authorization" card....I can then buy emergency contraceptives when I need them....rather than being turned away or having to wait until I get into the doctor's office.

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