Opill, FDA
A daily oral contraceptive was approved for use in the US without a prescription. Photo credit: Perrigo and FDA / Wikimedia

Perrigo Company, the Ireland-based manufacturer of the over-the-counter contraceptive, said it would make its “Opill” available in stores and online early next year.

Listen To This Story
Voiced by Amazon Polly

In a move that could radically change contraception in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday that it has approved the country’s first-ever birth control pill available without a prescription.

Perrigo Company, the Ireland-based manufacturer of the over-the-counter contraceptive, said it would make its “Opill” available in stores and online early next year.

At that time, millions of women in the US will have a safe and effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancies without needing a prescription.

“When used as directed, daily oral contraception is safe and is expected to be more effective than currently available nonprescription contraceptive methods in preventing unintended pregnancy,” said Patrizia Cavazzoni, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

It will be interesting to see how the availability of an over-the-counter contraceptive will play out politically.

Ostensibly, this should come as welcome news for people on both sides of the abortion debate. After all, it stands to reason that the existence of this pill, and the ease of access to it, can significantly reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.

The FDA estimates that nearly half of the 6.1 million pregnancies in the US fall into that category.

However, the abortion debate is not really about the number of abortions performed annually and much more about politicians controlling women’s bodies.

In addition, the same people who want to outlaw abortion are also not fans of contraception.

Last year, for example, only eight Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for the Right to Contraception Act.

In addition, several GOP-controlled states allow doctors and pharmacists to refuse to prescribe contraceptives or make them available, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Researchers found that about one-third of women who wanted to obtain contraception reported barriers to access.

Republicans often also oppose things like sex education or making condoms available in school. Both of these measures would likely reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and, therefore, abortions.

Therefore, it stands to reason that it will not be smooth sailing for this new nonprescription birth control pill.

Case in point is the US Conference of Catholic Bishop’s strong opposition to the approval of the contraceptive earlier this year.

For now, however, its manufacturer hailed the FDA’s decision as a “truly momentous day for women’s health nationwide.”

Like the prescription variant of birth control pills, the use of the OTC contraceptive is not entirely risk-free.

While the pill will be safe to use for most women, there may be some side effects such as “irregular bleeding, headaches, dizziness, nausea, increased appetite, abdominal pain, cramps or bloating,” the FDA said.

In addition, women who have (or have had) breast cancer should not use the new pill.


Comments are closed.