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FDA Approves Over-The-Counter Birth Control Pill

Opill will be available in 2024

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FDA Approves First OTC Birth Control Pill

Birth control pills have been available with a prescription for more than 50 years. However, soon you will be able to purchase your birth control pills at your local pharmacy or store without a prescription.

“The availability of oral contraceptives without a prescription is groundbreaking, but we want people to know that we are still here for them to provide guidance as needed.” - Treasure Walker, MD

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first over-the-counter birth control pill. The Opill, a daily oral contraceptive, will be available to people without a prescription in 2024. Pricing and an exact launch date are pending.

“Many people don’t use oral contraceptives regularly because of barriers like having to pay for office copays or taking time off for doctor’s appointments. This move will give people greater access to safe and effective birth control,” says Treasure Walker, MD, gynecologist with Lehigh Valley Physician Group (LVPG)–Obstetrics and Gynecology.

What is the Opill?

The Opill is a progestin-based birth control pill first approved by the FDA in 1973. It is 97% effective if taken as directed, at the same time each day. While there are many types of birth control on the market, the Opill will be the only one available without a prescription.

Progestin-based birth control pills such as the Opill are referred to as the minipill. Each pill contains the same amount of progestin and all are active. The contraceptive works by creating a thick cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg and thinning the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

Dr. Walker says that most people will be able to take the Opill without any issues, but there are a few exceptions.

“People who have breast cancer, have certain liver diseases, unexplained bleeding or take anticonvulsants may not be encouraged to take the Opill or any other progestin-based oral contraceptive,” she says.

Like any oral contraceptive, the Opill has side effects. Some people may experience irregular menstrual bleeding, ovarian cysts, decreased libido, headache, acne and weight gain.

The importance of counseling

Although you will not need to see a doctor to get a prescription for the Opill, Dr. Walker says you will still need to visit your gynecologist yearly for screenings and an overall physical. She says it’s also important to understand how to take the Opill so it is most effective.

“The availability of oral contraceptives without a prescription is groundbreaking, but we want people to know that we are still here for them to provide guidance as needed. If you have any questions or concerns about whether the Opill is right for you, you should contact your doctor,” Dr. Walker says.

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