The first over-the-counter birth control pill was just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a decision that could fundamentally alter how contraception is provided in the country.
For the first time, consumers will be able to easily acquire birth control without a prescription online, at pharmacies, quick-shops, and supermarkets.
This restriction has been viewed as a barrier to increased access to contraception. The firm that makes the medication, Perrigo, has not yet released the price.
The FDA’s approval coincides with increased public support for an over-the-counter birth control pill as a means of reducing the high percentage of unplanned births, which have been associated with adverse effects on both women and their unborn children.
Nearly half of the 6.1 million pregnancies that occur in the United States each year are unplanned, the government said in announcing its choice.
Birth control pills being sold over-the-counter has received support from a number of medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.
“Today, we made history,” declared Kelly Blanchard, president of Ibis Reproductive Health, a partnership of more than 200 organizations and a pro-pill organization.
“We celebrate this victory for equity, evidence-based research, and reproductive freedom amid widespread attacks on reproductive rights.”
Opill is a pill that only includes progestin, making it a safer alternative to combination pills that also contain estrogen. Combination medications, which can among other things cause depression, would not be permitted for women with more serious medical issues.
However, progestin-only medications have drawbacks, including as diminished effectiveness if they are not taken at the same time every day.
The action was taken following a unanimous vote by an FDA advisory panel two months prior to recommend that the drug be sold without a prescription.
The pill, which was initially approved as a prescription medication decades ago, was evaluated by the panel to see if it would be safe, effective, and, most crucially, simple for women of all ages to use as directed.
“Over-the-counter birth control pills will change the game for populations affected by systemic health inequities if they are made available equitably, which means that they are priced affordably and completely covered by insurance.
According to Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, who has studied birth control and abortion pills, “We’re one step closer to ensuring contraceptive access is a reality everyone.