First U.S. Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill Will Be Available Soon

The News

The first nonprescription birth control pill in the United States will be available in stores and online in the coming weeks at a price of $19.99 a month, the manufacturer, Perrigo Company, announced on Monday.

Credit…Perrigo Company, via Associated Press

Why It Matters

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

Reproductive health experts said that its availability could be especially useful for teenagers, young women, and others who have difficulty dealing with the time, costs or logistical hurdles involved in visiting a doctor to obtain a prescription.

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

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

Opill is not a new medication — it was approved for prescription use 50 years ago. Reproductive health experts and members of an F.D.A. advisory panel cited its long history of safety and efficacy. It is 93 percent effective at preventing pregnancy with typical use. Women with certain conditions — primarily 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 labeling,” Karen Murry, the deputy director of the F.D.A.’s office of nonprescription drugs, said in a memo explaining the approval decision.

Since the Supreme Court overturned the national right to an abortion in 2022, the accessibility of contraception has become an increasingly urgent issue. But long before that, the move to make a nonprescription pill available for all ages had received widespread support from specialists in reproductive and adolescent health and groups.

The approval of Opill faced very little public opposition from conservative groups that are often critical of 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 the health care research organization KFF, more than three-quarters of women of reproductive age said they favored an over-the-counter pill, primarily because of convenience.

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