According to the American College of Obstetricians, oral contraceptives should be available over the counter, no prescription or doctor’s exam needed.
The statement, released last week on the ACOG website, argued that easier accessibility would mean more women who take oral contraceptives would obtain (and stick with) their birth control. Though no drug is risk free (the pill has been deemed safe), the College points out that other drugs like aspirin and acetaminophen are sold over the counter even though they have well-known health risks. Also, if you’re 17 or older, you can already get emergency contraception–which is just a higher dose of regular birth control–without a prescription.
There are some hurdles to be jumped before any real action could take place, however, and there is no indication that pharmacies will be dispensing the pill over-the-counter any time soon. For starters, prescription-free birth control pills would not be covered under the Obamacare reform that requires workplace health insurance plans to provide copay-free contraceptives. That can significantly impact oral contraceptive accessibility to those who cannot afford it, which seems counterintuitive for the ACOG if they want to increase accessibility.
Secondly, the company selling the pill would have to go through a process that could take years, asking the FDA to grant permission for it to be sold without a doctor’s visit. No company has asked so far.
It might take years at this point, but we may see a future with over-the-counter oral contraceptives available for everyone.
Image courtesy of Matthew Bowden