Amanda MacMillan, SELF magazine
Big news, ladies: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG; a companion organization to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) announced yesterday its official recommendation that oral contraceptives should be sold over the counter, without a prescription. Plenty of paperwork still stands in the way of this monumental moment in women's health, but it appears as though the United States is one step closer to granted broader access to contraceptive for all women.
In a video on the ACOG website, Gerald F. Joseph, M.D., says The College's recommendation was based on the unintended pregnancy rate in the United States, which has hovered around 50 percent for the last 20 years. By providing greater access to contraception without a prescription--as is already done in many other countries around the world--ACOG hopes to finally make a dent in this number.
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So even though this may mean you won't have to see your Ob-Gyn on a yearly basis to get that prescription refill, you should ABSOLUTELY continue to see your doc annually. As Joseph says, "It's important to have an annual well-woman exam, and to be able to talk with your Ob-Gyn about options for contraception other than, lets say, oral contraceptions. Only by that kind of visit can a woman really get the full range of benefits for health care."
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The College, the 65,000-member professional organization that represents about 90 percent of U.S. board-certified obstetrician-gynecologists, makes its case for OTC contraception in the December issue of its monthly journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology and in order for the recommendation to become a reality, drug makers will have to file applications and prove to the FDA that their medications will be safe and effective when sold over the counter.
OTC status has never been granted for a medication that's taken every day for an unspecified amount of time--and concerns will surely arise about potential health risks (like blood clots), as well as social, ethical and religious implications. And while the Affordable Care Act ensures that women can get free or low-cost prescription birth control, OTC pills may not fall under the same legislation.
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Still, the FDA's 2006 decision to allow the emergency contraception Plan B to be sold over the counter paved the way for this new recommendation, and it's quite possible that we could find The Pill on drugstore shelves within the next five years, ACOG fellow Daniel Grossman, M.D., told CNN. Regardless of your beliefs on birth control or where you get it--now or in the future--it's important to know your options, as well as the benefits, effectiveness, and potential side effects for each type of birth control.