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The Food and Drug Administration approved the United States' first over-the-counter birth control pill last week — Perrigo Company’s Opill — potentially significantly increasing access to contraception as states continue to restrict abortion and reproductive rights across the country.
A new Morning Consult survey shows that nearly 3 in 10 women (27%) are interested in taking over-the-counter birth control pills, citing the effectiveness of preventing pregnancies, convenience and affordability as top reasons for potentially trying the newly approved option.
Efficacy, Convenience Are the Top Reasons Women Are Interested in Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pills
Questions about use and access remain ahead of Perrigo’s Opill launch
There are still several unknowns about Opill ahead of its likely entry into the market next year. For example, will women actually switch from their current method of birth control to the Opill? Morning Consult data shows that women are willing to make the change: Among the women who said they are interested in over-the-counter birth control pills, 46% said they would be willing to change their current method of birth control when the pills become available either in stores or online.
There are also questions about the cost of the product and whether insurers will cover the pill, which will impact the number of people who can reasonably access the medication. Among the women who said they are interested in over-the-counter birth control pills, more than 3 in 5 said affordability was a primary reason. However, Perrigo has not yet announced the price of Opill.
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Furthermore, insurers may not cover the pill as insurance plans offered through the Affordable Care Act are only required to cover the pill if prescribed, and some health plans do not typically provide coverage for other over-the-counter medicines without a prescription, leaving consumers on the hook for out-of-pocket costs.
Despite interest in the new medications, 3 in 4 of the 1,123 total women surveyed believe it is important to consult with a doctor before using over-the-counter birth control pills, compared with 14% who said it was not important. Although, among the women aged 18-44 who said they were interested in trying the pill, 61% said making the personal decision to take the medication without consulting a doctor was a reason they were interested in taking it.
Half of Americans Say Birth Control Pills Should Be Available Over the Counter
Access to birth control remains politically divisive
As birth control pills are about to be available over the counter for the first time in the United States, 51% of U.S. adults said they should be sold over the counter. Meanwhile, 28% said the pills should be available only with a prescription and 16% said they don’t know or have no opinion. There were similar shares of each response for all women, with slight upticks for women who already use birth control.
There was, however, a stark partisan divide: 61% of Democrats said birth control pills should be available over the counter, compared with 43% of Republicans and 45% of independents.
Looking more closely at registered voters, there have been notable shifts in opinions on how birth control should be distributed. While 42% of registered voters said that birth control should only be sold with a prescription in June 2015, 29% now say the same. Registered voters aren’t necessarily becoming more open to the sale of contraceptive pills without a prescription but instead they’re feeling more uncertain. The share of registered voters who said they don’t know or have no opinion on how birth control pills should be sold increased from 5% in June 2015 to 13% in the most recent survey.
While it remains to be seen how popular Opill will be, as well as cost and coverage questions, the FDA’s first-of-its-kind approval provides another birth control option for women and will likely increase contraceptive access after a number of states have stripped back access to abortion since the fall of Roe v. Wade more than a year ago.