In many parts of the world, a woman can walk into a store and buy a pack of birth control pills over-the-counter – but not in the US. The Pill has been used safely for over half a century by more than 300 million women. In fact, it’s safer than many over-the-counter medications. The idea of making birth control available over-the-counter (OTC) has been around for a long time and is well-supported by the medical establishment. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other leading medical associations have officially recommended over-the-counter access as a way to improve usage and reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, which in the US remains at a stubborn 50% of pregnancies annually.
Ultimately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decides whether a pill can be made available without a prescription, but the FDA can only switch a product from prescription to OTC sale in response to an application from a company that already owns the rights to an Rx product… and that has not yet happened. No pharmaceutical company has ever applied to switch a Pill OTC, probably because it’s more profitable to keep them Rx. There’s a start-up in Berkeley, California that thinks they can do it — #liberatethepill.