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Great News: We’re One Step Closer to Getting an OTC Birth Control Pill



Good news for anyone who’s ever had the horrifying realization that they’re almost out of birth control pills and they need their prescription re-upped, like, yesterday: The US could soon see its first ever over-the-counter (OTC) birth control pill.

Two different Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory groups voted unanimously (17–0) last week to approve OTC use of the drug Opill, the generic of which is norgestrel. The drug itself isn’t new; norgestrel was first approved by the FDA in 1973 for pregnancy prevention. But, like all other birth control pills, it has required a prescription.

Just because the two advisory committees recommended the drug doesn’t mean it will be automatically available: The FDA still has to make a final decision on whether or not to approve it for OTC use. Its answer is expected to come later this year.

The potential benefits of OTC birth control pills are huge, Siripanth Nippita, MD, a clinical associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone, tells SELF. “This is going to be a wonderful step forward,” she says. “This is freedom—freedom to just go to the store and buy it and not have to wait until the last possible minute.” 

Below, experts answer questions about what greater access to birth control pills could look like—including whether you should consider switching for the sake of convenience, even if you already have a contraception method that works well for you.

Who will OTC birth control pills benefit the most?

Greater access to birth control pills is good news for everyone, according to Jennifer Lincoln, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn and executive director of Mayday Health, a health education nonprofit. If Opill is approved for OTC use, she says, it will particularly help people who fall into certain categories, including young people who don’t feel comfortable speaking to their parents about birth control options; people who don’t have easy access to a pharmacy because they live in rural or otherwise underserved areas; people who can’t see a health care provider to get a prescription due to a lack of insurance; people who have had bad or traumatizing experiences with doctors and, therefore, don’t like visiting them; and people who are just downright busy and don’t have time to see a doctor regularly to make sure their prescription is up-to-date. 


An OTC pill would also be very useful for people who simply can’t get an appointment to see an ob-gyn quickly: “It is really hard to see a health care provider these days,” Dr. Lincoln tells SELF. “It might be six months out; then [that person] thinks they have no other options. But the ability to say, ‘I want to start this tomorrow and not have to worry about insurance [or] a prescription’—that’s a game-changer.”

“For me and many providers, this is an access issue,” New York–based gynecologist Alyssa Dweck, MD, FACOG, tells SELF. “The main benefit here is just increasing access to contraception to [anyone] who is interested in it.”

Source: Self

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