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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

    FDA Advisers Back Approval of First OTC Birth Control “Opill” In US

    Photo by Isaiah McClean on Unsplash

    In a historic move, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee has recommended the approval of the first over the counter (OTC) birth control pill- “Opill”. This decision could make access to birth control more accessible and affordable for millions of women across the United States.

    The recommendation was made by the FDA’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee in November 2021, and it is now up to the FDA to make the final decision. The FDA typically follows the recommendations of its advisory committees, so it is expected that the birth control pill will be approved for over-the-counter use in the near future.

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    The OTC birth control pill, called “Plan B One-Step,” has been available in the United States since 2006. However, it has only been available without a prescription to those aged 18 and over. If the FDA approves the recommendation, the age limit will be lifted, and the pill will be available to all women of childbearing age without a prescription.

    Plan B One-Step is a backup birth control technique and emergency contraception. If other forms of birth control were ineffective or were not utilized, emergency contraception is used to lessen the likelihood of pregnancy following unprotected intercourse. It’s not intended for everyday contraceptive use.

    This is a significant development in the fight for reproductive rights and access to birth control. The availability of OTC birth control pills will make it easier for women to obtain and use contraception, particularly those who may face barriers to accessing healthcare, such as those who live in rural areas or those who cannot afford to see a doctor.

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    Health insurance companies are obliged to pay for prescription birth control, but they are not obligated to cover over-the-counter options. As a result, Opill may still be out of the price range of those with lesser wages, particularly Black women, Latinas, and Native American women, whose average dollar earnings are the lower in some underserved communities.  The drug’s producer, HRA Pharma, has not disclosed the price it will charge. Without insurance, a pack of hormonal contraceptives typically costs between $20 and $50.

    Studies have shown that increasing access to birth control can significantly reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, unintended pregnancies cost the U.S. healthcare system $5 billion per year. By making birth control more accessible, the United States could save billions of dollars in healthcare costs and improve the health and well-being of millions of women.

    The move to approve an OTC birth control pill has been met with praise from reproductive rights advocates and healthcare professionals. They argue that access to birth control is a fundamental right, and that it should be as easy to obtain as other medications like aspirin or cough syrup.

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    However, some critics have raised concerns about the safety of OTC birth control pills. They argue that women need to be under the care of a healthcare provider to ensure that the birth control method they are using is safe and effective for their individual needs.

    Despite these concerns, the FDA advisory committee ultimately decided that the benefits of OTC birth control pills outweigh the risks. If the FDA follows their recommendation, it could be a game-changer for reproductive rights and access to healthcare in the United States.

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    In conclusion, the recommendation by the FDA advisory committee to approve the first OTC birth control pill in the United States is a significant milestone in the fight for reproductive rights and access to healthcare. By making birth control more accessible and affordable, millions of women across the country could benefit from improved health and well-being, and the United States could save billions of dollars in healthcare costs.

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