Making birth control pills available without a prescription

There is growing support in the United States to make birth control pills available over the counter (OTC), and US women are increasingly interested in the pill going OTC. New research from the UCSF Bixby Center shows that a broad spectrum of women are interested in this option.

In focus group discussions with African-American women, Asian-American womenĀ and young women, researchers heard that women liked the convenience and privacy of getting the pill OTC. Women also said that making the pill available OTC would help reduce untended pregnancies, as well as help destigmatize birth control.

Women had concerns about OTC access, including worry that first-time users and adolescents would not have enough information to use the pill safely and effectively. Women were also worried that the cost of OTC pills would be higher if insurance no longer covered them.

These findings join a growing body of evidence indicating that OTC birth control pills could help prevent unintended pregnancies. Several professional medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Family Physicians, support removing the prescription requirement for oral contraceptives. The main concern that must be addressed going forward is insurance coverage for OTC contraception.