OTCs in Action: US access to OCs changing


Digital Projects Executive, Holly Parmenter, looks at how access to oral contraceptives is evolving in the world’s No.1 OTC market.

It’s legitimate; three US states now officially allow you to get your daily birth control straight from your pharmacist at the local drugstore.

This week OTCs are in action in Oregon, Washington and California as these states have agreed to the new pharmacist-prescribed hormonal birth control plan; Hawaii, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee are all in discussions as to whether to follow.

Gone are the days where waiting and queuing for your contraceptives was a necessity – the entire process, start to finish, now takes just under 20 minutes!

This new and exciting development consists of filling out a simple health questionnaire and having your blood pressure taken. Your pharmacist will then recommended a brand of birth control pills. It has been on the cards for a while, as women’s healthcare providers have expressed how they would like to see birth control made easier to access.


The matter, over various states, has been considered very political. Applications for switch must also show that the candidate is very safe in terms of health. With a large amount of oral contraceptives, there is a thrombotic stroke risk, and an applicant would have to be able to deal with this through labelling if, for example, progestin-based pills were to become OTC.

In June 2015, US Senator Patty Murray announced the Affordability is Access Act, a new bill that would build on contraception coverage mandated in the Affordable Care Act. “I believe strongly that women should be able to get the comprehensive healthcare they need, when they need it
 – without being charged extra, without asking permission and without politicians interfering,” said Senator Murray.

With support from NARAL Pro Choice America, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG), the Affordability is Access Act would allow women to have access to OTC OCs without being forced to pay extra out of pocket.

So far there seems to be no movement on this merging but here’s hoping that now California, Washington and Oregon have this OTC offering, the positives will become apparent and various partnerships can work together to make OCs truly OTC nationwide.

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