Research brief: Moving the birth control pill over the counter in the United States
Ibis Reproductive Health. Research brief: Moving the birth control pill over the counter in the United States. July 2015.
The birth control pill, also called oral contraception or ’the pill,’ is a popular contraceptive method that has been around for over 50 years. Over 80% of women who have been sexually active have used the pill at some point, but still half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and many of these occur because women who weren’t trying to get pregnant were not using birth control consistently or at all.
Requiring a prescription for the pill is a barrier for many women, including those without access to a health care provider, transportation, child care, or insurance. Research indicates that making the pill available over the counter (OTC) would lead to greater use of effective birth control and lower rates of unintended pregnancy. An OTC pill would remove the unnecessary burden of requiring a woman to visit a doctor to get the birth control she needs. The most likely process for an OTC switch is for a pharmaceutical company to submit an application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make a specific pill product available as a nonprescription drug.