The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

Over-the-counter oral contraceptive approved by FDA, what students need to know

H Beck

The United States will join over 100 countries worldwide with over-the-counter access to birth control with the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Opill. 

With much still up in the air since the announcement—cost, a definitive release date and which pharmacies will first carry the pill—here is what we do know and why it has taken 63 years to be approved for over-the-counter sale. 

Oral contraceptives first became available in 1960. Within two years of their release, nearly 1.2 million Americans were using the pill. The first pill and many available on the market today contain two prominent reproductive hormones in the body: progesterone and estrogen. 

Opill, the name of the over the counter approved pill, is a progesterone only contraceptive pill. Progesterone pills have been available since 1973 and offer similar combination pills as options for those looking for oral contraceptives. 

According to the FDA, the progesterone-only pill is 98% effective when taken every day within the same three hour time frame. 

“Some contraceptive options, such as ones containing estrogen (combination oral pills, rings, patches), are not always recommended for people to use due to risk of blood clots and other potential side effects,” said Heidi Wise, a physician’s assistant at Oregon State University’s Student Health Services. 

Wise believes that these side effects which are more common with estrogen-containing contraceptives are why a progesterone-only pill is the first to be offered as over-the-counter. 

“As long as there is a well-written instructions list and it has all the warnings and everything like any other over-the-counter drug I think it should be fine,” said Oregon State University third-year accounting student Gabby Platt on her confidence in the drug’s safety. 

This is not the first time that this specific progesterone only (norgestrel 0.075 mg) pill has been available for consumers though. The pill was first approved by the FDA in 1973 under the name Ovrette but was discontinued in 2005 due to a business decision by the producing company. 

According to Wise, the pill was renamed Opill in 2017 and was offered as a prescription medication prior to the recent approval to be sold over-the-counter. 

According to the press release by Opill’s parent company, Perrigo, the pill is planned to be available online and in major retailers within the first couple of months of 2024. 

For college students looking to access the pill near campus, Wise is unsure whether the new campus pharmacy located in the Samaritan Athletic Medicine Center will offer the pill. 

According to Wise, the pill’s approval does not cause any changes to the current contraceptive care and offerings on campus. 

“We still encourage students with interest or questions, or who would like a consultation for contraceptive management, to make an appointment with a provider so we can work together to find out what fits best for that person,” Wise said. 

For those who do not have access or approval for CCare or a clinic though, Wise notes that this over-the-counter option will expand access. 

“It’s wonderful anytime we can increase access to health services for all,” Wise said. “This increased access could improve health disparities in communities needing access to contraception.”

Platt considered this a big win for younger students, particularly those in high school, to access contraceptive care. 

“I think now that this is out, students will be able to have more privacy with their physical health so they will be able to get the care that they need without the judgment or restriction of their parents,” Platt said.  

According to the press release Perrigo, 45% of the nearly six million pregnancies in the U.S. annually are unintended. Additionally, another third of adults who have attempted to get and continue to refill prescriptions for contraceptive pills had difficulties. 

Although Wise does think this is a great option for many people, she hopes individuals looking for contraceptive care will still get a professional opinion. 

“I still think it valuable to consider consulting with a medical provider about all options if a person is able and has access to this service,” Wise said. “This process can help them find something that is a good fit for them, whether that is a prescription or over-the-counter option.”

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