Gynecologists endorse sale of birth control pills through drugstores

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 26 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7970
  1. Edward Davies
  1. 1BMJ, New York

Birth control pills should be sold without prescription, say doctors representing the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

In an opinion article for the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology they say that birth control pills are now so safe and important to women that they should be sold on drugstore shelves.1

One of the coauthors, Kavita Nanda, a scientist with the non-profit development organization FHI 360, formerly known as Family Health International, told the press that half the country’s pregnancies were unintended, a proportion that had stayed the same for 20 years. Easier access to birth control pills could help bring down this rate, she said.

“It’s unfortunate that in this country where we have all these contraceptive methods available, unintended pregnancy is still a major public health problem,” said Nanda.

Many women had trouble affording a doctor’s visit or getting an appointment in time when their pills were running low, which could lead to skipped doses, she said.

The article acknowledges that any move to supply birth control pills without a prescription would have implications for insurers, costs, and physicians. For example, women would have to pay for birth control pills if they bought them from a drugstore, whereas they are free through insurance policies. Any move to a non-prescription pill would have to consider these issues.

The Food and Drug Administration said on 20 November that it was willing to meet any company interested in making a non-prescription pill to discuss what, if any, studies would be needed.

The Obama administration’s new healthcare law required FDA approved contraceptives to be available without copayments to women enrolled in most workplace health insurance plans. Tait Sye, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said that if birth control pills were sold without a prescription, they would not be covered under the provision, in the same way that condoms weren’t.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7970