UNITED STATES NEWS

First over-the-counter birth control pill gets FDA approval

Jul 13, 2023, 5:39 AM | Updated: 5:50 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials have approved the first over-the-counter birth control pill, which will let American women and girls buy contraceptive medication from the same aisle as aspirin and eyedrops.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it cleared Perrigo’s once-a-day Opill to be sold without a prescription, making it the first such medication to be moved out from behind the pharmacy counter. The company won’t start shipping the pill until early next year, and there will be no age restrictions on sales.

Hormone-based pills have long been the most common form of birth control in the U.S., used by tens of millions of women since the 1960s. Until now, all of them required a prescription.

Medical societies and women’s health groups have pushed for wider access, noting that an estimated 45% of the 6 million annual pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. Teens and girls, women of color and those with low incomes report greater hurdles in getting prescriptions and picking them up.

Some of the challenges can include paying for a doctor’s visit, getting time off from work and finding child care.

“This is really a transformation in access to contraceptive care,” said Kelly Blanchard, president of Ibis Reproductive Health, a non-profit group that supported the approval. “Hopefully this will help people overcome those barriers that exist now.”

Ireland-based Perrigo did not announce a price. Over-the-counter medicines are generally much cheaper than prescriptions, but they aren’t covered by insurance.

Many common medications have made the switch to non-prescription status in recent decades, including drugs for pain, heartburn and allergies.

Perrigo submitted years of research to FDA to show that women could understand and follow instructions for using the pill. Thursday’s approval came despite some concerns by FDA scientists about the company’s results, including whether women with certain underlying medical conditions would understand they shouldn’t take the drug.

FDA’s action only applies to Opill. It’s in an older class of contraceptives, sometimes called minipills, that contain a single synthetic hormone and generally carry fewer side effects than more popular combination hormone pills.

But women’s health advocates hope the decision will pave the way for more over-the-counter birth control options and, eventually, for abortion pills to do the same.

That said, FDA’s decision has no relation to the ongoing court battles over the Roe v. Wade, which has upended abortion access across the U.S.

With some states curtailing women’s reproductive rights, the FDA has faced pressure from Democratic politicians, health advocates and medical professionals to ease access to birth control. The American Medical Association and the leading professional society for obstetricians and gynecologists backed Opill’s application for over-the-counter status.

An outside panel of FDA advisers unanimously voted in favor of the switch at a hearing in May where dozens of public speakers called for Opill’s approval.

Dyvia Huitron was among those who presented, explaining how she has been unable to get prescription birth control more than three years after becoming sexually active. The 19-year-old University of Alabama student said she still isn’t comfortable getting a prescription because the school’s health system reports medical exams and medications to parents.

“My parents did not let me go on the pill,” Huitron said in a recent interview. “There was just a lot of cultural stigma around being sexually active before you’re married.”

While she uses other forms of contraception, “I would have much preferred to have birth control and use these additional methods to ensure that I was being as safe as possible.”

Huitron spoke on behalf of Advocates for Youth, one of the dozens of groups that have pushed to make prescription contraceptives more accessible.

The groups helped fund some of the studies submitted for Opill and they encouraged HRA Pharma, later acquired by Perrigo, to file its application with the FDA.

Advocates were particularly interested in Opill because it raised fewer safety concerns. The pill was first approved in the U.S. five decades ago but hasn’t been marketed here since 2005.

“It’s been around a long time and we have a large amount of data supporting that this pill is safe and effective for over-the-counter use,” said Blanchard, of Ibsis Reproductive Health.

Newer birth control pills typically combine two hormones, estrogen and progestin, which can help make periods lighter and more regular. But their use carries a heightened risk of blood clots and they shouldn’t be used by women at risk for heart problems, such as those who smoke and are over 35.

Opill has only progestin, which prevents pregnancy by blocking sperm from reaching the cervix. It must be taken around the same time daily to be most effective.

In its internal review published in May, the FDA noted that some women in Perrigo’s study had trouble understanding the drug’s labeling information. In particular, the instructions warn that women with a history of breast cancer should not take the pill because it could spur tumor growth. And women who have unusual vaginal bleeding are instructed to talk to a doctor first, because it could indicate a medical problem.

Perrigo executives said the company will spend the rest of the year manufacturing the pill and its packaging so it can be available in stores nationwide and online by early next year.

___

Follow Matthew Perrone on Twitter: @AP_FDAwriter

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

United States News

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump reacts after speaking at a campaign...

Associated Press

Trump expected to turn his full focus on Harris at first rally since Biden’s exit from 2024 race

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Donald Trump is holding his first public campaign rally since President Joe Biden dropped out of a 2024 matchup that both major parties had spent months preparing for, leaving the former president to direct his ire toward his likely new opponent, Vice President Kamala Harris. Trump is expected to turn his […]

2 hours ago

A runner and their pacer run as the sun rises behind them on California Route 190 during the Badwat...

Associated Press

Runners set off on the annual Death Valley ultramarathon billed as the world’s toughest foot race

DEATH VALLEY NATOINAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — During a rainstorm that partially obscured the light of a a nearly full moon, 97 runners pushed off in desolate Death Valley with the launch of a 48-hour annual ultramarathon billed as the world’s toughest foot race — the Badwater 135. After starting late Monday night, the men […]

2 hours ago

FILE - FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee o...

Associated Press

FBI chief to face questions over Trump assassination attempt as he returns to Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (AP) — FBI Director Christopher Wray is set to testify Wednesday about the bureau’s investigation into the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump, with lawmakers at a congressional hearing likely to press him for fresh details about the gunman’s motive and background. The hearing before the House Judiciary Committee will represent Wray’s most […]

3 hours ago

President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One as he arrives Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday, Ju...

Associated Press

Biden will make a case for his legacy – and for Harris to continue it – in his Oval Office address

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even though President Joe Biden won’t be on the ballot this November, voters still will be weighing his legacy. As Vice President Kamala Harris moves to take his place as the Democratic standard-bearer, Biden’s accomplishments remain very much at risk should Republican Donald Trump prevail. How Biden’s single term — and his […]

3 hours ago

Former U.S. Army medical technician Louis M. Gigliotti tours the Alaska Veterans Museum following h...

Associated Press

An Alaska veteran is finally getting his benefits — 78 years after the 103-year-old was discharged

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A 103-year-old World War II veteran who’s been paying his medical bills out-of-pocket is finally getting his veterans benefits from the U.S. government after 78 years. Louis Gigliotti’s caretaker says the former U.S. Army medical technician has a card from the Veteran Administration but he never realized he could use his […]

3 hours ago

Vice President Kamala Harris campaigns for President as the presumptive Democratic candidate during...

Associated Press

Democrats hope Harris’ bluntness on abortion will translate to 2024 wins in Congress, White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden might not often use the word “abortion” when he talks about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but Vice President Kamala Harris sure does. She’s also toured a Planned Parenthood clinic where the procedure is performed, and routinely links the fall of Roe to the larger issue of rising […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 storylines to get you revved up for the 2024 Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals training camp is just a couple weeks away starting on July 25, and Sanderson Ford is revved up and ready to go.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

First over-the-counter birth control pill gets FDA approval