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FDA approves birth control pill available over the counter

Written By: Vicki Powers, UT Physicians | Updated: July 26, 2023
Woman at the store

While Opill has been around for many years as birth control, a new FDA ruling enables women to purchase it over the counter beginning in early 2024.

Women will have access to the first-ever birth control pill without a prescription in early 2024, as a result of recent approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Opill, a progestin-only form of contraception, has been available for about 50 years by prescription only.

Pamela D. Berens
Pamela D. Berens, MD

Pamela D. Berens, MD, OB-GYN with UT Physicians, supports this development. Opill will serve a need for those who lack access to care by not requiring the time and cost of an appointment.

“I’m very supportive of a progestin-only birth control option being offered over the counter,” said Berens, the Dr. John T. Armstrong Professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. “It’s a big advance for women’s health care. But, of course, it’s still a good idea to see a health care provider for counseling.”

Berens emphasized the importance of talking with providers about sexually transmitted infections and other things that come with being sexually active. Providers can counsel women if they experience irregular bleeding and review risks and benefits of birth control options.

What is appealing to many is that Opill is a safe option that has been around for a long time. And because it’s progestin only, Berens said it doesn’t have some of the risks associated with it, like other forms of hormonal contraception.

“Many hormonal contraceptive options have both an estrogen and a progestin, so some of the risks are related to the estrogen,” Berens said. “The most important thing for women to know is that progestin-only options may cause irregular bleeding. That’s the most common side effect.”

As Berens shared with CBS Evening News, Opill is a safe option, even though it may not be a perfect option. Unlike other forms of oral contraception, Berens said Opill must be taken at roughly the same time every day. Other pills with progesterone and estrogen by prescription are more forgiving, she said.

“It’s a great option for women who need access to birth control without having to see a physician,” Berens said, “but it’s not going to be right for everyone.”

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.