The FDA Approved an Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill!
What does that mean for international students?
Recently, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the US’s first “over-the-counter” birth control pill called “Opill.” “Over-the-counter” refers to medications that can be purchased at a pharmacy without a prescription from a doctor. THIS IS BIG NEWS! Keep reading to learn why.
Prior to this authorization, in order for someone to obtain a prescription for birth control, they would typically have had to take the following steps:
- Find a primary care doctor or gynecologist doctor (preferably in-network)
- Schedule and attend an appointment with this doctor
- Receive a prescription from the doctor for birth control
- Wait until the prescription had been filled at the pharmacy you selected
- Pick up the prescription from the pharmacy, and pay for it.
Since birth control is considered preventative medication, and an appointment to get this medication would also fall under the preventive or wellness category, many international student insurance plans would not have covered this doctor visit. In addition, they also might not cover the cost of the preventative prescription medication.
However, with this new authorization, these are the steps someone would need to take in order to obtain the Opill birth control pill:
- Go to a nearby pharmacy (since it’s new, you may want to call ahead to make sure they have the authorized medication)
- Pick up and pay for the medication.
A price hasn’t been announced for the Opill yet, but HRA Pharma, the pill’s manufacturer, is receiving a lot of pressure from various entities to make sure the medication is affordable without insurance coverage (since most insurance plans don’t cover or discount over-the-counter medications). They anticipate announcing a price in the coming months, with the Opill being available in early 2024.
However, currently there are twelve states, plus Washington, DC, that do require insurance companies to cover over-the-counter contraceptives. You can see the list of states here, and always double check your insurance policy to understand your benefits. You can also call our customer service if you ever have questions about how your plan works!
Another important thing to note about this new Opill is that it is a progesterone-only birth control pill. Many currently prescribed birth control pills are combination progesterone-estrogen pills, but studies have found that progesterone-only has fewer side effects and is thus safer to take independently, without the direction of a doctor.
As they say in the news, this is a developing story, so the actual details and processes of how it will all work may shift and change over the next few months. We will do our best to update you on the major announcements related to this exciting approval!
For additional reading on this topic: