In the United States, you need a prescription from a health care provider in order to obtain birth control pills. Many other countries in the world do not require prescriptions and women may purchase birth control over-the-counter (OTC). The United States may soon join other countries in allowing OTC birth control to be available. A pharmaceutical company called Perrigo has applied to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an OTC birth control called Opill. Opill has been available as a prescription medication since 1973, so this application is for an Rx-to-OTC switch. This would be the first ever OTC birth control pill in the United States, if it is approved by the FDA.
Opill is a progestin-only birth control pill containing 0.075mg of norgestrel taken daily. The progesterone-only birth control pill is also referred to as a mini pill or non-estrogen pill. It does not contain an estrogen component, which many birth controls do, but is still a hormonal form of birth control. Without the estrogen component in the birth control pill, Opill is still an effective form of birth control and reduces the risks of taking oral estrogen (for example, blood clots). Some people may not be able to take estrogen either, so the progesterone-only pill could be good option for them. However, the progesterone-only birth control does have some strict administration instructions that users should be aware of. The progesterone-only pill must be taken daily, at the same time each day. If you take it more than 3 hours late, it may not be effective. It is important that users are fully educated on the medications they’re taking. A pharmacist is a great resource to ask questions to if you’re looking for more information about an OTC product!
If the Opill becomes available OTC, it will certainly remove barriers and improve access to contraception that is safe and more effective than anything else available OTC in the US currently. However, consumers should be aware of the specifics for taking the medication properly and should still follow up with their healthcare providers regularly.