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Birth control pills should be sold like condoms - OB/GYNs

November 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The push to make birth control pills available over the counter is in high gear, as the nation's largest group of obstetricians and gynecologists backed offering the pill without a prescription.

No one expects the pill to be sold without a prescription any time soon, but the momentum may be building.

"I think it's great. I think that women need to have quicker and easier access to birth control," said Tashia Buccioni of Santa Monica.

The surprise opinion from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists could boost longtime efforts by women's advocates to make the pill more accessible.

The group made it clear that birth control pills are very safe, saying blood clots, the main serious side effect, happen very rarely. Supporters say oral contraception is one of most studied drugs with a proven safety record.

Anyone 17 or older can already purchase the morning-after pill without a prescription. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration held a meeting to gather ideas about how to sell regular oral contraceptives without a prescription, too.

Half of U.S. pregnancies every year are unintended, which is a rate that hasn't changed in 20 years.

Dr. Janet Pregler, medical director of the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women's Health Center, says without medical supervision, the wide variety of pill combinations available may make choosing confusing to women. Oral contraception does have side effects women need to be aware of.

"Risks are higher for women over the age of 35 who smoke and might take a birth control pill," she said.

There are also questions about how such a move would affect what women pay for the pill. The Obama administration's new health care law requires FDA-approved contraceptives to be available without copays for women enrolled in most workplace health plans. If the pill were sold without a prescription, it wouldn't be covered under that provision, just as condoms aren't.

Some parents aren't in favor of over-the-counter access. Keisha Warren says parents should have the ability to monitor what their teenagers are doing.

"I would like to know so we can make that choice together," she said. "I wouldn't want her to just be able to go in there and make that choice on her own."

Before the pill can be sold over the counter, a company has to get government permission, and it's not clear if any are considering it. The FDA said it was willing to meet with any company interested in making the pill nonprescription.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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