A debate is currently underway as to whether or not birth control pills should be sold over-the-counter, the way condoms are, instead of by prescription. It may come as a surprise to some to learn that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has announced, in a new Committee Opinion, its support for the pill being sold without a prescription. ACOG calls the rate of unintentional pregnancies, currently at about 50%, “unacceptably high” and believes easier access to oral contraceptives may reduce this number.
There are several reasons why this group is in favor of nonprescription sales of birth control. The most serious side effect, the risk of blood clots, or venous thromboembolism — potentially fatal — is rare. So, even newer birth control pills that contain a hormone that may increase the risk of dangerous blood clots, are still regarded to be very safe. As reported by The Huffington Post,women can easily identify risk factors, such as a history of blood clots and smoking. Additionally, pelvic exams nor Pap smears are needed to begin taking the pill, although it is important for women to continue to have regular gynecological check-ups and to see a doctor if they are interested in other types of birth control, like intrauterine device (IUD).
Many are concerned that women who have an unrecognized conditions like hypertension may unknowingly put themselves at risk while taking the pill if they are not required to see a doctor before taking birth control. ACOG recommends using a checklist like the one provided by World Health Organization.
One of the drawbacks to making birth control pills available over-the-counter is the fact that insurance companies would not be required to cover the cost as they now are, under Obamacare. With some brands charging as much as $1000 a year, birth control could be difficult for some, particularly college age women, to afford.
There may be more issues at stake than those at the forefront of the discussion. There is the concern that teenage girls will be less responsible in the use of birth control pills if they are sold without a prescription. ACOG says teenaged girls interested in contraception should use hormonal implants or IUDs as a “first line” option.
The fact is, this issue, which may appear to be simple on the surface is really multi-layered and very complicated.
As reported by Salon.com, “Tuesday, the FDA said it was willing to meet with any company interested in making the pill nonprescription, to discuss what if any studies would be needed”. Hopefully, the FDA will give decisions regarding nonprescription birth control very careful consideration. Once a policy like this is put into place, it can be almost impossible to reverse.