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Increasing access to Contraction

Increasing access to contraception

FDA approves first OTC birth control pill; WSDOH offers helpful access info

As the parent of a newborn, a parent whose family is just the right size, or the parent of tweens, teens, or young adults who may become sexually active, you have likely given at least some thought to preventing unwanted pregnancies. This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made that task a little easier by approving the first over-the-counter daily oral contraceptive to prevent pregnancy. 

Opill (norgestrel) makers say the drug will be available in U.S. pharmacies, drug stores, convenience stores, and grocery stores, as well as online without a prescription at https://discoverdentalhouston.com/online-pharmacy/ in early 2024. Opill manufacturer Perrigo has not released price information.

“Today marks an important step in the drive toward meaningful access to essential healthcare for Americans,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement on July 13. “The FDA’s approval of the first daily over-the-counter oral contraceptive will provide millions with access to safe and effective birth control without a prescription. 

“For women, this approval will lower long-standing barriers to the healthcare they need,” Becerra said. “The professionals at the FDA deserve our gratitude for continuing to foster critical innovation for consumers while achieving the highest standards for safety and scientific review.”

Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a release: “When used as directed, daily oral contraception is safe and is expected to be more effective than currently available non-prescription contraceptive methods.”

Preventing unwanted pregnancy in WA and beyond

Federal health officials hope Opill will reduce barriers to access to contraception by removing the obstacle of first needing to see a healthcare provider. The agency estimated that nearly 3 million pregnancies yearly in the U.S. are unintended. According to Power to Decide,  approximately 48% of pregnancies in women age 15 to 44 in Washington State are unintended or unplanned. Washington’s 2020 adolescent pregnancy rate has declined approximately 80% from the 2000 rate of 36.3 per 1,000 according to the Washington State Department of Health. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that approximately 10 per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19 will birth in Washington this year.

Safety and efficacy testing on Opill found it is safe for women of reproductive age, including adolescents as young as 15. In fact, 30% of subjects in clinical trials were under 20. There will be no age limit on the purchase of the medication. 

Opill is not a day-after solution: It doesn’t prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or protect against transmission of HIV, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms continue to be the best way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases if a person has sex.

WA Health Department on birth control

Wondering what birth control is right for you or a young person in your family? The Washington State Department of Health recommends bedsider.com as the best source for learning about all birth control methods and how to use them consistently and effectively. Bedsider.com is a research-based, non-profit, non-partisan organization operated by Power to Decide. For Spanish speakers, go to Bedsider Espanol

The state health department also offers the following information on access to birth control:

  • All insurance plans offered through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange must cover contraceptives — including emergency contraceptives — at no cost to the patient, even if a deductible has not been met.
  • Apple Health (Washington’s Medicaid program) and Washington’s Family Planning Only program also cover contraceptives at no cost to you. Both also offer other family planning services. If you are not eligible for Apple Health, you might be eligible for Family Planning Only. For example, there are no citizenship requirements for Family Planning Only.
  • Residents of Washington can also contact clinics funded by the state health department. They offer contraceptives — including emergency contraceptives — on a sliding-fee scale.

Emergency contraception

The state health department also provides information about emergency contraception, including outlining the four types currently available. These methods prevent pregnancy if used within 120 hours of unprotected sex. State health officials offer the following information on obtaining emergency contraceptive care:

For more information and resources regarding preventing unwanted pregnancy, contraception, emergency contraception, and other valuable topics, go to the state health department’s You and Your Family page.

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About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for NestingInstinctsSeattle.com and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at Compasswriters.com.