In a unanimous vote, a panel of expert advisors to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday endorsed the over-the-counter sale of a birth control pill, a recommendation that will likely pave the way for far greater access to contraception for Americans.
Opill, as the pill is called, was first approved by the FDA in 1973. There is no precise information available on how much Opill will cost if sold over the counter (OTC), but Opill manufacturer Perrigo said recently that it is committed to making the medication affordable.
“Today’s vote to recommend a switch of Opill to OTC is a new, groundbreaking chapter in reproductive health. Perrigo is proud to lead the way in making contraception more accessible to women in the U.S.,” Perrigo President and CEO Murray Kessler said in a company news release. “We are motivated by the millions of people who need easy access to safe and effective contraception.”
The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and other medical organizations already support over-the-counter access to hormonal contraception without age restrictions.
And the FDA panel agreed.
“I do believe this is a viable option to support access and will support the prevention of unintended and unwanted pregnancies,” said panel member Jolie Haun, a researcher with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who voted in favor of the pill, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, the Free the Pill coalition has been advocating for over-the-counter status for birth control pills since 2004, citing the many barriers that exist for people who want to use birth control pills, especially those from marginalized communities.
On Wednesday, the group applauded the panel’s decision.
“Today, in a historic step forward for reproductive health, a joint FDA advisory committee voted in favor of moving a progestin-only birth control pill over the counter,” said Victoria Nichols, project director of Free the Pill. “It is past time for an over-the-counter birth control pill, which has the potential to advance reproductive justice and expand health equity. Now, we look to the FDA to follow the committee’s recommendation, in addition to the overwhelming data, and approve the first-ever over-the-counter birth control pill in the U.S.”
With a full decision expected this summer, the FDA isn’t obligated to follow the guidance of its advisory panels, but it