Will Birth Control Be Sold Like Condoms?
Should the pill be sold over the counter in the same way as condoms are today instead of by prescription? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has announced its support to make birth control pills available without a prescription.
One question that will need to be resolved if the pill is to be made available over the counter is the price. Birth control can be expensive, as much as $1000 a year for some newer brands. If the pill was to become available without a prescription, insurance would no longer be required to cover the cost as is now the case under the Obama administration's new health care law.
There were four main reasons that the group decided to support nonprescription sales of birth control:
It's Safe: Birth control pills are considered to be very safe. The most serious side effect is the risk of blood clots, but these blood clots are considered quite rare. In fact, there is a greater threat of blood clots during pregnancy and just after birth than when using birth control pills.
Side Effects Are Uncommon: Even though birth control pills do have the serious side effect of blood clots, this in itself shouldn't stop them from being available without a prescription. Other drugs with serious side effects are available over the counter. For example, aspirin is available over the counter even though it has the serious side effects of possible stomach bleeding or liver damage.
Risk Factors Are Easily Identifiable: For those women who are most at risk for blood clots and should avoid taking the pill, the risk factors can be easily identified without a doctor's help. These include having a history of a previous blood clot or smoking.
Pap Smear or Pelvic Exam Not Needed: In order to begin taking birth control pills, neither a Pap smear or pelvic exam is needed. While it's important for women to continue getting gynecological check-ups on a regular basis, and to see a doctor if they are interested in other forms of birth control such as an intrauterine device (IUD), there isn't a need for a medical exam to begin taking birth control pills.
The FDA has indicated its willingness to meet and discuss with any interested companies the studies and other data which would be required to make a nonprescription pill available to the public.
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