First Birth Control Pill Sold Over the Counter Hits Store Shelves Soon

By   |  March 5, 2024

By Robin Foster HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2024 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

MONDAY, March 4, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- The first over-the-counter birth control pill will soon be available in U.S. stores and online, the drug's maker plans to announce Monday.

Sold as Opill, the medication was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last May. Once it is officially for sale, a one-month supply will cost women $19.99, while a three-month supply will run $49.99, drug maker Perrigo told CNN.

Opill has already been shipped to major retailers and pharmacies. After it hits store shelves, anyone can buy it without a prescription. It will also be available at Opill.com, CNN reported.

“From an online perspective, it should be available for order pretty much immediately,” Triona Schmelter, executive vice president and president of consumer self-care for the Americas at Perrigo, told CNN.

When taken at the same time every day, Opill has been found to be 98% effective at preventing pregnancy, according to Perrigo.

“We’re excited about this. It looks very good,” Perrigo President and CEO Patrick Lockwood-Taylor said during a company earnings call last week, CNN reported. “The product is here, waiting to be distributed. ”Walgreens and CVS have said they will offer the product.“

"Opill will be available at CVS.com and through the CVS Pharmacy app in late March,” spokesperson Matt Blanchette told CNN. “In early April, more than 7,500 CVS Pharmacy stores will offer Opill and for added privacy and convenience, customers will be able to choose same-day delivery or buy online and pick up in store."

Will price be an issue? Possibly.

A 2022 KFF survey found that among women likely to use over-the-counter birth control pills, 39% said they could pay up to $10 per month for them, and 34% could pay up to $20 per month -- the recommended cost of a one-month pack of Opill. Only about 16% said they could pay more than $20. Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurers are required to offer coverage of birth control for free.

Schmelter also noted that Perrigo will have a cost-assistance program available for qualified low-income and uninsured people.

“We really wanted to think about all consumers as we were crafting our pricing strategy, just to make sure that it was accessible to our consumers, and ensure both affordability and availability on shelf,” Schmelter said.

Overall, an over-the-counter birth control pill is a “great step forward,” Dr. Colleen Denny, director of family planning at NYU Langone Hospital, Brooklyn, told CNN.

“Having an over-the-counter, highly effective birth control option on the shelves is potentially a great step forward in improving access to high-quality birth control," Denny said. "We know that getting a prescription medication, which is required for all other birth control pills in the U.S., can potentially be a big barrier for patients. A pill you could buy off the shelves could potentially help with that.”

The safer composition of Opill is another bonus.

It uses only the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy, while combination birth control pills, which contain progestin and estrogen, raise the risk of blood clots more than progestin-only pills, Dr. Asima Ahmad, chief medical officer and co-founder of Carrot Fertility, a global fertility care platform, told CNN.

Because Opill is a progestin-only oral contraceptive, it is “incredibly safe” for the vast majority of people who may be interested in taking it, Dr. Ashley Brant, director of complex family planning at Cleveland Clinic, told CNN.

“Birth control pills are either progestin-only, or they’re estrogen plus progestin. For most people, either birth control pill will be safe, but the progestin-only pill in particular has very few contraindications to it," Brant said. “This is just one extra way to get birth control that we didn’t have before.”

More information

Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on contraceptives.