The Case for Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pills


Now greater than ever earlier than, entry to contraceptives should be expanded.

(ParentingPatch / Wikimedia Commons)

Unintended pregnancy—both undesirable or mistimed—is a crucial public well being concern. Girls who’ve unplanned pregnancies usually tend to delay prenatal care and endure from postpartum depression. Though the unintended being pregnant fee within the U.S. is at an all-time low, current information exhibits 45 percent of pregnancies are still unintended—greater than in lots of different industrialized nations. Adolescents (15-17 years of age), younger adults (18-29 years of age), girls with low revenue and academic attainment, and racial/ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by unintended pregnancies. Most unintended pregnancies are as a consequence of non-use, inconsistent use or incorrect use of contraceptives. Several barriers, together with value and entry, hinder girls from getting contraceptives or utilizing them persistently.

The COVID-19 pandemic and a recession have exacerbated these points, with practically 12 million women worldwide dropping entry to contraception as a consequence of pandemic disruptions. A survey discovered that one in three U.S. girls skilled difficulties in accessing contraception because the begin of the pandemic with Black, Hispanic and queer girls being disproportionately impacted by these disruptions. Now greater than ever earlier than, entry to contraceptives should be expanded.

The second most used contraceptive method within the U.S., after feminine sterilization, is the oral contraceptive tablet, or contraception tablet. The U.S. is one of the few countries on this planet that requires girls to have a prescription to acquire contraception tablets—which serves as a major barrier, particularly for individuals who lack entry to a healthcare supplier, transportation childcare and different sources. A national representative survey discovered 29 % of ladies had issue getting a prescription or refill for contraception tablets. Frequently reported barriers included cost- or insurance-related obstacles, points with scheduling an appointment or touring to the physician’s workplace, the physician requiring a clinic go to, pelvic examination or Pap smear, and never having a main care physician. Making contraception tablets accessible over-the-counter (OTC) will take away such obstacles, growing entry to contraception for tens of millions of ladies.

How one can Change from Prescription to Over-the-Counter (OTC) Entry

To make a drug accessible OTC, drug producers should submit a new drug application to the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA then assesses if the drug meets the next criteria:

  1. Acceptable security margin with low misuse and abuse potential
  2. Sufficient labeling that’s comprehensible by the layperson
  3. No clinician is required for the secure and efficient use of the drug as shoppers can self-diagnose the situation for which the drug is indicated for and self-screen for contraindications

Contraception tablets have been authorized to be used for over 60 years now, so their aspect impact profile has been well-understood. They’ve a low misuse and abuse potential, as they don’t seem to be addictive and don’t trigger extreme toxicity if overdosed. Most side effects are benign like bleeding between durations and nausea. Severe issues are very uncommon.

Probably the most ceaselessly cited complication is the formation of blood clots as a result of ethinyl estradiol—a type of estrogen—or sure progestin kinds present in combined birth control pills. Nevertheless, absolutely the danger of blood clots amongst customers of the mixed contraception tablet continues to be very low (7 out of 10,000 women), which is decrease than the chance of blood clots during pregnancy (20 out of 10,000 women). Moreover, the progestin-only birth control pill, generally referred to as the minipill, is not associated with an increased risk for blood clots. General, the advantages outweigh the dangers as contraception tablets are safer than the options of being pregnant and childbirth.

Like with many different OTC drugs, contraception tablets should not for everybody. Girls with certain conditions ought to keep away from mixed contraception tablets, whereas others ought to keep away from progestin-only tablets with the intention to decrease well being dangers—similar to how some with bronchial asthma or peptic ulcer illness avoid using aspirin, an OTC drug. Research establishes that girls are able to self-screening for danger components as successfully as their healthcare suppliers. One study discovered that girls have been in a position to precisely establish contraindications utilizing a easy guidelines.

What does all this imply? That contraception tablets meet the FDA’s standards to be made accessible and not using a prescription.

Girls and Healthcare Suppliers Need Over-the-Counter (OTC) Beginning Management Tablets

A Kaiser survey confirmed three in 4 girls supported making contraception tablets accessible OTC. One other national survey discovered 62 % of members favored OTC contraception tablets, and 37 % would seemingly use contraception tablets in the event that they have been made accessible OTC, together with 28 % of members who have been utilizing no contraceptive methodology.

A study that aimed to know which contraceptive options have been valued by girls discovered present prescription contraception tablets solely had 60 % of the “extraordinarily necessary options.” Nevertheless, an OTC tablet would have 71 % of the valued options, making it a better match with girls’s preferences. Clinicians additionally help OTC contraception tablets; each the American College of Obstetricians and Physicians and American Academy of Family Physicians help OTC entry to contraception tablets. 

Guaranteeing Insurance coverage Protection and Entry for All Ages

Beneath the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, most non-public medical insurance plans are required to cowl the total vary of contraceptive strategies for girls, with out out-of-pocket prices to the affected person. Based on this mandate, insurance coverage firms must cowl OTC contraceptives like feminine condoms and spermicides, however only if the woman has a prescription. So, if contraception tablets change into OTC, however the tablets are costly, then one barrier (entry) will merely get replaced by one other (value). Protection for OTC contraceptive strategies must be strengthened by eliminating the prescription requirement for protection of any OTC contraceptive methodology. The U.S. military’s Tricare insurance program covers OTC contraceptive merchandise like Plan B and not using a prescription and will function a mannequin for different insurance coverage applications.

Provisions of the Affordability Is Access Act (AAA), which might guarantee insurance coverage protection of FDA-approved OTC contraception tablets with out the necessity for a prescription, should be prioritized and enacted by policymakers.

Identical to Plan B, contraception ought to be made accessible OTC with no age restrictions. Adolescents face greater charges of unintended pregnancies and extra obstacles to contraception entry. They could concern their mother and father discovering out in the event that they schedule an appointment with their physician to get a prescription or they could not have transportation to a physician’s workplace—that means adolescents have probably the most to realize from OTC entry to contraception tablets. Research additional exhibits contraception tablets are secure and efficient in adolescents. In truth, potential contraindications to contraception tablets are less frequent in adolescents in comparison with older girls.

Teenagers are additionally interested by OTC contraception tablets: A survey of adolescents aged 14-17 discovered that 73 % of members favored OTC entry and 61 % reported they’d use OTC contraception tablets.

OTC contraception tablets, particularly if lined by insurance coverage, can be a game-changer for tens of millions of ladies in America who expertise obstacles to contraception entry. A study discovered that OTC contraception tablets might scale back unintended pregnancies by as a lot as 25 %.

As of now, two drug manufacturers, HRA Pharma and Cadence Well being are looking for FDA approval for OTC contraception tablets. Free the Pill, a marketing campaign that helps reasonably priced, insurance-covered OTC contraception tablets, has been lobbying the FDA. Free the Capsule originated out of the Oral Contraceptives (OCs) Over-the-Counter Working Group, a coalition of reproductive well being and justice organizations, nonprofit analysis and advocacy teams, and clinicians who help better entry to secure and efficient contraception.

To study extra about how one can additionally become involved within the motion for OTC contraception, go to or observe Free the Capsule on social media.

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