Jul 13, 2023, 11:57am EDT
North America

What it means: The FDA approves first over-the-counter birth control pill

REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

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The News

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the country’s first over-the-counter birth control pill Thursday.

Produced in Dublin by the manufacturer Perrigo, the progestin-only Opill is said to be the most effective over-the-counter contraceptive to hit the market.

We’ve collected news and insights that illustrate how the pill works and its impact on women’s reproductive healthcare.

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  • The Opill is also known as a “mini pill” for containing progestin –– a synthetic version of progesterone. Research shows that progestin-only pills are more effective than other over-the-counter birth control options, and work by thickening mucus in the cervix to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. The mini pill has a failure rate of 7%, Katrina Heyrana, an OB-GYN at the family planning program at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles said. -- The New York Times
  • Some medical experts believe that granting access to over-the-counter birth control pills is a “safe and necessary step” in reproductive health care. “More than 60 years of safe and effective use of oral contraceptives have shown that the benefits of widespread, nonprescription availability far outweigh the limited risk associated with their use,” said Dr. Jack Resneck Jr., the president of the American Medical Association. — NPR
  • Several U.S. government officials took to Twitter to celebrate the news –– saying that more access to birth control will counter existing hurdles in women’s health care, particularly in conservative states. “Between access to abortion being banned in Texas and the starving of resources for our rural health providers and sexual health providers, Texans need to be able to access contraception more easily,” said Erin Zwiener, the state representative for Hays County.
  • There are concerns that the Opill would not be as effective for overweight people. The FDA approved the pill as a prescription drug in 1973 when obesity rates among U.S. adults were much lower. The obesity rate was 13% in 1960 but has shot up to 42% now. -- CNN
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Know More

Perrigo has yet to announce the price of the medication, but in a statement on the company’s website, Frédérique Welgryn, Perrigo’s global vice president for women’s health said that the pill will be “accessible and affordable to women and people of all ages.”

The decision was approved by a panel of 17 independent scientific advisers to the FDA. They voted unanimously in favor of making the medication available without a prescription and said that the move would outweigh the risks of unintended pregnancies.