FDA approves first OTC birth control pill

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The Food and Drug Administration made a historical approval this week clearing the way for the once-a-day Opill to be sold without a prescription.  Dr. Nicole Freehill, Assistant Professor of Clinical OB/GYN at LSU Health New Orleans applauds the decision because a large percentage of pregnancies every year are unplanned.

“If we give patients just even more access and ease to have an effective birth control that just helps reduce those number of unintended pregnancies,” said Freehill.

Freehill says birth control pills are already available without a prescription in other countries.

Noting that some oral birth control pills can have serious side effects like blood clots, Freeman says there’s a reason specifically why the Opill which is a progesterone-only contraceptive, was approved for over-the-counter use.

“It is not associated with that increased risk of clots like the hormone pills that have both estrogen and progesterone are,” said Freehill.

There are some side effects that users should be mindful of, like headaches and bleeding. Freehill says often with a progesterone-only pill users can have irregular bleeding, but she stresses if it’s unusually heavy see a physician.

Freehill says the pill, when used as directed, has the highest rate of preventing pregnancy among current over-the-counter contraceptives.

“Then you get to a roughly 93% chance of preventing pregnancy which is much higher than all of the other over-the-counter protection that’s available,” said Freehill.

The Opill is expected to be widely available at the beginning of 2024.

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