Tuesday, April 16, 2024

First Over-the-Counter Birth Control, Opill, Heads to Stores Alexis Jones

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In an unsuspecting win for reproductive freedom, Opill, the first nonprescription birth-control pill in the United States is heading to stores. The medication will be available for over-the-counter purchase, no prescription required, in retailers (and online!) later this month, according to a statement from parent company Perrigo.

“Today we celebrate an important and historic milestone — the first-ever over-the-counter birth control pill is shipping to retailers this week,” Kelly Blanchard, president of Ibis Reproductive Health, which operates the Free the Pill coalition, said in the statement. “This transformation in access has the potential to be a game changer, especially for people who face barriers to contraception due to the structural racism in our health care system.”

But what is Opill, exactly? And where will consumers be able to buy it? We’re answering your every question below.

What Is Opill?

Opill, initially approved for OTC sales by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 2023, is a progestin-only pill (aka mini pill), which is one of two types of oral birth control available. The other type is a combination pill, which contains both estrogen and progestin and is more popular in the US, but is also more closely associated with blood clots (though the risk is still very low). People who are already at risk for or who have a history of blood clots are not advised to take combination pills, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so progestin-only pills are typically offered as an alternative. People who suffer from migraine headaches or who are currently breastfeeding may also be prescribed the mini pill instead of a combination pill, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Is Opill Effective?

According to the company’s website, the pill is 98 percent effective when taken as directed, making it the most effective birth control method available OTC. Opill works similarly to other oral birth control methods. You take one pill at the same time every day. Opill starts working within 48 hours, or two days, after you take your first dose. That said, barrier methods like condoms are advised for the first two days to prevent pregnancy.

Where Can You Buy Opill?

Opill will be available in brick-and-mortar stores, pharmacies, and major retailers in the family planning aisle, as well as online at Opill.com later this month. When you buy it online, it will be shipped to your home in subtle, discreet packaging, the company states.

How Much Will Opill Cost?

The pill currently has a suggested retail price of $20 for a one-month supply and $50 for a three-months supply. Opill will also be available at Opill.com in a three-months supply and six-month supply (the latter is priced at $90).

Those prices may be affordable to some, but for others, Opill will remain out of reach. To that point, Blanchard said there’s more work to be done. “Our commitment to bringing a birth control pill over the counter has always centered on equity, and we are committed to ensuring that the company, retailers, and the Biden administration are doing everything in their power to guarantee access for everyone. Insurance coverage, a robust consumer assistance program, and getting OTC birth control into clinics and communities where people can access it at no charge are critical.”

According to Perrigo, it has already set up a cost assistance program to be rolled out in the coming weeks so that those who qualify (i.e. those who are low income or uninsured) will be able to get Opill for less or at no cost. Victoria Nichols, project director at Free the Pill, is asking policymakers to go a step further, urging those at the local and federal level to “act now to ensure that over the counter birth control is fully covered by insurance without a prescription or cost sharing.”

In other words, we’ll take the win — but $20 OTC birth control is just the beginning when it comes to ensuring that every person who wants it can have access to contraception with no barriers in sight.

Alexis Jones is the senior health editor at POPSUGAR. Her areas of expertise include women’s health, mental health, racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare, diversity in wellness, and chronic conditions. Her other bylines can be found at Women’s Health, Prevention, Marie Claire, and more. Alexis is currently the president of ASME Next, an organization for early-career print and digital journalists.

— Additional reporting by Maggie Ryan

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