In an exciting win for reproductive rights, a FDA advisory panel voted unanimously in favor of the use of the “Opill,” Perrigo Co’s oral contraceptive, without a prescription. This will be the first over-the-counter birth control pill available in the United States. Over 100 countries throughout the world have already approved birth control for over-the-counter use.   

The FDA advisory panel agreed that individuals, including adolescents and those with limited literacy, would be able to use Opill safely, without the oversight of a healthcare professional. They decided that the benefits of the pill would outweigh the associated risks. The level of safety of this oral contraceptive has been compared to Benadryl, ibuprofen, Tylenol, and numerous other medications that are taken daily without incident. Dr. Leslie Walker-Harding from the University of Washington confirmed that the Opill is “extremely safe, much safer than all three of those medications.”

Before the release of this drug, the FDA will make a decision on whether or not to follow the advice of the advisory committee. The FDA’s final decisions on medications often align with the expert advisers, and they have faced pressure from both lawmakers and the medical community to approve the Opill. Last year, over 50 members of Congress signed a letter urging FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf to review applications for over-the-counter birth control pills. “This is a critical issue for reproductive health, rights, and justice. Despite decades of proven safety and effectiveness, people still face immense barriers to getting birth control due to systemic inequities in our healthcare system,” the lawmakers wrote.   

The over-the-counter availability of oral contraceptives will be a significant step forward in the fight for reproductive rights following the overturn of Roe v. Wade last summer. Birth control pills have been inaccessible for many groups of people, disproportionately low income and minority communities, due to the requirement of a prescription. Increasing the accessibility of birth control pills will offer many women an unprecedented level of control over their bodies and decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies.      

Sources: CNN 5/10/2023, Reuters 5/10/2023

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