Oregon stores begin selling nation’s first over-the-counter birth control pill

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For the first time ever, over-the-counter birth control pills are available in Oregon stores and pharmacies.

The Food and Drug Administration first approved the oral contraceptive in 1960. Over 60 years later in mid-July 2023, the agency approved the over-the-counter version of the drug — dubbed the “Opill” — nationwide.

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According to Oregon Health and Science University, the Opill had already been accessible as a prescription drug since 1973. But unlike with some other birth control pills, the formula is estrogen-free.

OHSU Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Alison Edelman told KOIN 6 News the new over-the-counter option only includes the progestin hormone, making it safer for a wider variety of people to use them.

Federal officials haven’t placed any age restrictions on who can purchase the contraceptive, but the professor assures it is “incredibly safe.”

“It’s safer than having access over the counter to Tylenol, which has been long-standing and something that we’re very used to, with buying without a prescription,” Edelman said.

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She mentioned a previous study that showed the majority of women are capable of screening themselves to determine whether they’re eligible to use birth control pills. She also noted that women are more likely to restrict themselves from using oral contraceptives than medical professionals.

The OPill started to hit shelves in March, and is even available for purchase on Amazon. A one-month supply costs around $20, while a three-month supply costs around $50.

Edelman believes the drug’s new, widespread availability will help “fill in some gaps” for those who have struggled to access it.

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“We know that a lot of individuals have unmet need, either because of access to health care providers, or because of cost issues or they just want to access it differently, they just want to have more privacy and they don’t want to be within the system,” she said.

The contraceptive isn’t recommended for those who are pregnant, or who have or have had breast cancer. Edelman advised those with liver disease to speak with their health care provider before using the drug.

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