Making “the pill” available over the counter could help millions

by Pharmaceutical Processing

Source: Pharmaceutical Processing

Making oral contraceptives available for purchase without a prescription would give millions of women access to reliable family planning methods – right at their local grocery or drug store shelves, according to a new report by National Center for Policy Analysis Senior Fellow Devon Herrick.

“Allowing ‘the pill’ to be sold over-the-counter (OTC) would help millions of women find better access, lower costs and added convenience when buying hormonal contraceptives,” said Herrick. “While only around 55,000 American drugstores fill prescriptions, an additional 700,000 retail stores sells OTC drugs.”

Transitioning “the pill” from a prescription drug to an OTC drug could also dramatically lower price. Other medications that have made the jump from prescription to OTC have seen dramatic cost savings:

  • The cost for Prilosec, a heartburn medication, fell from $4 per capsule to 60 cents;
  • Zantac, another heartburn medication, fell from $2.61 per daily dose to $1.66 per month, or
    about a nickel a day;
  • The cost for Claritin, an allergy medication, fell from $79.99 to $18.88 per month.

Making contraceptives available OTC would not eliminate no-cost insurance coverage of women’s annual reproductive health wellness visits or overturn the requirement for most health plans to cover prescription contraceptives, says Herrick. However, it would allow women to pick up hormonal contraceptives at their local drug or grocery stores.

“More than 100 prescription drug ingredients have been approved by the FDA for over-the-counter sale in the past 40 years. That experience confirms the safety, convenience and lower cost of allowing prescription drugs to be sold over-the-counter,” added Herrick.