There’s an interesting Op-Ed over at the New York Times suggesting that it’s about time the birth control pill be available as over the counter medication. Since a prescription is the status quo, it never even dawned on me that changing that was an option. This would certainly help women who don’t have access to a doctor or had other complications arise (forgetting your pills before a vacation, etc). And in a country plagued by teen pregnancy, it would certainly help sexually active teens who don’t have methods of getting a prescription, whether they be for monetary or parental reasons.
But on top of the social aspect, Kelly Blanchard makes many good points on why we should make this change based on the science behind the pill:
The pill meets F.D.A. criteria for over-the-counter medications. Women don’t need a doctor to tell them whether they need the pill — they know when they are sexually active and want to avoid pregnancy. Pill instructions are easy to follow: Take one each day. There’s no chance of becoming addicted. Taking too many will make you nauseated, but won’t endanger your life, in contrast to some over-the-counter drugs, like analgesics. (There are even side benefits to taking the pill, like reduced risks of ovarian and uterine cancer.)
It’s true that the pill could be dangerous for women with certain conditions. Women who are 35 or older and smoke, and those with high blood pressure, are at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke if they take oral contraceptives that combine estrogen and progestin. But these are not complicated conditions to identify; women already have to tell their doctor about their health problems when they get a prescription, and research shows that women can screen themselves for contraindications almost as well as providers do.
What do you think? Is it time for birth control pills to be available over the counter? Do we have these regulations in place just because it deals with women’s sexuality, or are their valid medical concerns that Blanchard failed to mention?