FDA Panel Backs First Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill

    FDA Panel Backs First Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill
    Last updated May 11, 2023
    Image credit: time


    • On Wednesday, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel voted unanimously in support of making prescription birth control medication Opill available over the counter for the first time in the US.[1]
    • The panel reportedly focused on whether women, including adolescents, could take the pill safely and effectively on their own. They agreed that the benefits of making Opill available over the counter far outweigh the risks of inappropriate use.[2]
    • While the recommendation isn't binding, the 17-0 vote could weigh heavily on the FDA's final decision — which is due later this summer — to allow women to take Opill without a prescription.[3]
    • Most birth control pills prescribed in the US are estrogen-based; however, Opill, first approved in the 1970s, is a progestin-only pill and doesn't contain estrogen.[4]
    • The recommendation comes as anti-abortion groups are also seeking a nationwide ban on the abortion pill mifepristone.[5]
    • According to a recent study, about 45% of women in the US experienced at least one barrier to reproductive health care services in 2021, an increase of 10% from 2017. In addition, almost 19% reported at least three barriers in 2021, which was also an increase from 16% in 2017.[6]


    Left narrative

    This is a historic step forward for reproductive health, women’s rights, and social justice, with the barriers of systemic inequities in the US healthcare system falling hardest on people of color and lower-income women. Moreover, switching the birth control pill from prescription to over-the-counter will improve equitable access to contraception and reproductive autonomy for thousands of women who are prevented from getting the abortion care they need.

    Right narrative

    The evidence provided on the safety and effectiveness of Opill is outdated, flawed, and relies on low-quality studies. There's no assurance that women with limited literacy would use it accurately or comply with directions to abstain from sex if they missed a dose. If Opill is approved without an age restriction, teens and adolescents will likely become sexually active and gravitate to drug stores across the US.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 5% chance that elective abortion will be banned nationally in the US before 2030, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

    Political split



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