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An over-the-counter birth control pill is now available at pharmacies. What it means for Colorado patients

What to know about Opill, the 1st over-the-counter birth control pill
Posted at 10:06 AM, Mar 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-26 12:06:00-04

DENVER — The first over-the-counter birth control pill is now available at pharmacies across the U.S., including in Colorado.

Opill, manufactured by Perrigo, is the first FDA-approved birth control pill in the U.S. that does not require a prescription.

“In the past, to obtain a prescription for birth control pills, you needed to have a provider visit or prescription, go to your pharmacy pick up the medication. So, it just eliminates a lot of those barriers that currently have existed in the past,” said Jessica Anderson, director of midwifery services for the University of Colorado College of Nursing.

Opill, which costs about $20 or a month's supply, currently has no age limit.

“This medication is progestin only, so there's no estrogen. And I think sometimes people are scared of birth control pills or hormones because they can cause certain things. This medication is very, very safe. So the majority of people do qualify or are eligible to take this medication,” Anderson said. “Sixty percent of the births in the United States are unplanned. [It] doesn't mean that they're unwanted but they're unplanned. So maybe the timing was off or maybe someone was unable to get contraception or birth control. And so the hope of with this medication is that it's going to eliminate the unintended pregnancies and allow people to choose when they decide to get pregnant.”

According to a National Institutes of Health study, one-third of women in the U.S. reported barriers to receiving prescription contraception. Kaiser Family Foundation research shows Colorado in one of seven states that require private health insurance plans to cover nonprescription medication even though state Medicaid programs typically don’t require the same.

“It's very similar to going and getting a medication like a cold medication or a pain reliever, like acetaminophen. So it's the same concept that you read the label, make sure you're appropriate,” Anderson said.

Anderson said medical professional organizations have been pushing for this option for years and this removes another barrier to reproductive healthcare for those who need it.