Over-the-Counter Birth Control Is a Win For Missouri. But Not All May Benefit

The FDA approved the first over-the-counter birth control pill on Thursday

Jul 13, 2023 at 1:12 pm
click to enlarge Opill, known as the "mini-pill," will hit the shelves early next year.
Thought Catalog via Flickr
Opill, known as the "mini-pill," will hit the shelves early next year.

Birth control pills will soon be as easy to buy as allergy meds or a pack of gum. 

The Food and Drug Administration announced today that it will clear a daily birth control pill called Opill to be the first contraceptive of its kind to be sold without a prescription. 

Until today, all hormone-based birth control pills required a prescription for purchase. 

This is a win to be celebrated, says Mallory Schwarz, executive director of Abortion Action Missouri. Over-the-counter birth control has long been available in other countries, and reproductive rights activists have waited years for the FDA to clear it in the U.S. 

“There’s no reason why individuals shouldn’t be able to go to their pharmacy and get access — hopefully affordable access — to a pill the exact day they need it,” Schwarz says. 

But this is not an “end-all, be-all solution,” Schwarz says.

“We celebrate the U.S. coming into this position, but we also know that this will not solve the abortion-access crisis,” Schwarz says. “This will not be a solution for people who can’t afford something over the counter in the first place.”

The company that makes Opill, Perrigo, has not yet released an exact timeline on when the medication will be available over the counter. The company stated Thursday that Opill will be available online and at leading retailers sometime in early 2024. It’s also unclear how much Opill will cost, but Perrigo said it's committed to making Opill "accessible and affordable" to people of all ages.

In a statement to the RFT, Michelle Trupiano, executive director of Missouri Family Health Council, agreed with Schwarz on the medication’s cost.

“Today’s announcement is welcome news for communities across the country who face barriers to contraception access every day, including in Missouri,” Trupiano said.

“However, we know Opill will be cost-prohibitive for many,” Trupiano continued. “Which is why we need continued investment in safety net programs like the federal Title X family planning program to ensure equitable access to care for all.”

A recent survey found that many Missourians are confused about the legality of birth control. One in four respondents didn't know that birth control pills are legal, and more than half didn’t know the same about emergency contraception.

Birth control pills do not terminate pregnancies. Opill, which is a progestin-only or "mini-pill," works by thickening cervical mucus to keep sperm from reaching an egg. That’s just one of multiple ways the medication prevents pregnancy, according to the FDA.

 A previous version of this story incorrectly described the result of a survey. We regret the error.

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