NPR News for Central and Northern Michigan
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

The FDA could soon approve an over-the-counter contraceptive pill

The pharmacy at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.
Erik Jacobs for ProPublica
The pharmacy at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

The Food and Drug Administration could soon approve an over-the-counter, oral daily-use contraceptive pill for women. The Kaiser Family Foundation surveyed thousands of women seeking their input on reproductive health. Patrick Center spoke with the study’s co-author.

“This pill itself was already approved by the U.S. FDA in 1973.”

It’s been four decades since a progestin-only daily oral pill was approved. The caveat is prescription-only. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration’s Joint Advisory Committee voted unanimously an over-the-counter version’s benefits outweigh its risks. Perrigo, whose North American headquarters is located in downtown Grand Rapids, submitted an application for its Opill with the FDA last year. That’s when the Kaiser Family Foundation asked more than 5,200 women a series of questions on the transition to an over-the-counter contraceptive pill and their likelihood to use it.

“And what we found was that more than three-quarters of reproductive age women favor moving the pill over-the-counter even if they wouldn’t use it themselves.”

Michelle Long is Senior Policy Analyst with Kaiser’s Women’s Health Policy. She says 60 percent who said they’d be likely to use the pill cited convenience.

“Perhaps because it takes time to go to a doctor’s office. It takes time to get an appointment. You have to figure out childcare, and time off of work. So, that convenience factor is significant for women. We also found that a large share of women are price-sensitive. So, they have not released the OTC pill yet, we don’t know what that’s going to be. And we found that women, only a small share about 15 percent, said that they’d be willing to pay more than $20 a month for it.”  

Forty percent said they’d be willing to pay $1 to $10.

It’s widely expected that the FDA will approve the Opill this year.