Should Over-the-Counter Birth Control Be Available?

The topic of reproductive health has always been fraught with controversy. However, since the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling in 2022, discussion around reproductive health seems to be more prevalent than ever before. One topic that has been debated time and time again is having over-the-counter birth control medication be available. 

Until recently, a prescription from a healthcare professional was needed for anyone to purchase birth control. However, a recent FDA advisory panel voted 17-0 in favor of approving the first ever OTC birth control. This does not mean that the new drug is approved yet  — the FDA can go against the recommendation — but there is a strong likelihood the drug will be approved.

The drug is a progestin-only pill that contains a synthetic version of progesterone; as opposed to the typical mix of progesterone and estrogen in most birth control pills. While there were some concerns by panel members, most agree that the “evidence demonstrates that the benefits clearly exceed the risks.” With the controversy around reproductive health and potential impact this drug could have, we asked the Figure 1 community for their thoughts.

Here’s what more than 350 healthcare professionals had to say.

What’s the Verdict From Practicing HCPs?

We asked the Figure 1 community if they agreed with the recommendation from the FDA advisory board of approving this drug. Seventy percent of our respondents agreed with the recommendation, compared to 22% who disagreed and 9% who were unsure. 

While most HCPs do agree with the sentiment that over-the-counter birth control will be beneficial, it is not without some concern. One respondent stated, “Not in favor of availability to minors without parental/guardian consent – otherwise, OK.” While another said “I’m unclear of exactly what happens with misuse of oral contraceptives (other than the obvious 👶🏼) but I’d be worried improper use due to naiveté could harm public perception of its effectiveness.” Overall, there is strong agreement that the benefits of OTC birth control outweigh any risks.

Will it Be Properly Used?

One of the largest concerns about over-the-counter birth control, even from the perspective of the FDA, is if consumers will know how to properly use the drug. The FDA concluded that “women knew enough about how to use oral contraceptives safely and effectively.” But what do HCPs think?

We asked the Figure 1 community if they were concerned people wouldn’t know how to properly use the medication and the results were quite split. Forty-three percent of respondents said yes, they were concerned, 46% said no, and 10% remained unsure. 

One respondent stated, “It would be great for this to be otc. I do think it should be behind the pharmacy and the individual gets a consult with the first purchase to go over instructions.” So, most HCPs are in favor of the drug, but would like to see a higher level of instruction comparative to other OTC medication.

Thoughts From the Figure 1 Community

As with any new medication, there are always concerns. In general though, most HCPs believe over-the-counter birth control would be a major success for healthcare.

“I hope the packaging makes clear the actual efficacy of this drug. My understanding is it’s not as effective as a combination (estrogen/progestin) pill, but the side effects are lower.” 

– Paediatrician

“Since more and more states are outlawing abortion, access to OTC birth control becomes more and more important. In a country that already has an incredibly high rate of maternal mortality relative to other developed countries, we need to enable women to make choices. Yes, there are risks associated with BC use, but there are more risks associated with unwanted pregnancies.” 

– Rheumatologist

“Many young girls are afraid to speak about sexual encounters with their parents. This may help prevent unwanted pregnancy and possible child abuse. I still think it should be used in conjunction with barrier protection to prevent STDs.” 

– Registered Nurse

Published May 29, 2023

Join the Conversation

Sign up for Figure 1 and be part of a global community of healthcare professionals gaining medical knowledge, securely sharing real patient cases, and improving outcomes.