1st U.S. over-the-counter birth-control pill approved

The FDA’s decision lifts a barrier that has long constrained access to the best available contraception, an OB-GYN says.

Media Contact: Barbara Clements, 253-740-5043, bac60@uw.edu

The Food and Drug Administration today approved a birth-control pill that can be obtained without a prescription. The pill’s manufacturer expects it to be available in early 2024. It will be the first time that people in the United States will have access to an over-the-counter oral contraceptive. 

Dr. Sarah Prager, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and the director of the department’s family planning division, expects the expanded availability will have a widespread impact. 

“Honestly, it impacts everybody because it doesn't matter what socioeconomic or sociodemographic group somebody is in: Almost all people who are using contraception at one point or another find themselves with a prescription that has run out, and the pharmacy is closed or they can't get in to see their clinician to get a refill, or they're traveling or some (other) barrier to being able to effectively contracept,” said Prager. 

“I do think that people who have a harder time getting in to see a clinician — and that would include people who live rurally, that could include people who are of lower socioeconomic status, people in certain other racial or ethnic groups, or who have other access to care barriers, and that would also include adolescents who often have a harder time getting in to see a clinician, especially for reproductive healthcare — all those groups are going to see a significant improvement in access with over-the-counter birth-control pills.” 

Prager says the birth-control pill will also become the most effective over-the-counter contraceptive available in the United States. She says it is about 91% effective, with typical use, while barrier methods such as condoms and spermicides typically range from 70% to 85% effective. 

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