Birth Control Pills Offered Over-The-Counter?

Should birth control be accessible without a prescription in the U.S.?
Should birth control be accessible without a prescription in the U.S.?

A new study looks at the availability of birth control pills in countries around the world. While women in the United States, Canada and most of Europe need a prescription for oral contraception, that isn’t the case in all countries.

Birth control without a prescription

According to NY Daily News, thirty-five countries allow access to birth control pills over-the-counter, and 11 countries allow over-the-counter access as long as a woman goes through a quick screening process.

“The patterns we saw were interesting,” Dr. Daniel Grossman, of Ibis Reproductive Health in Oakland, California. “Higher income countries – western Europe, Australia, Japan and North America – generally require a prescription.”

Grossman and his colleagues sought this information from 147 countries. He says there is little reasoning for the differing access to birth control.

“Perhaps in places like China and India that have pills available over-the-counter formally without a prescription might be consistent with strong national family planning programs,” he speculated.

A possible reason

One doctor says fragmented regulations in the medical field are the reason for inconsistent access to birth control.

Dr. Ward Cates, of FHI 360, a research organization in Durham, North Carolina says, “healthcare tends to be more fragmented and healthcare oversight tends to be more fragmented. Therefore the availability of products tends to percolate to outlets that tend to be more accessible to the public.” Cates was not part of the study.

Influence on the U.S.

Dozens of countries allow women to get birth control without a doctor's visit or prescription.
Dozens of countries allow women to get birth control without a doctor’s visit or prescription.

Grossman told Reuters Health, he doesn’t believe this information will bring about any change in the states. Medical groups have suggested offering birth control pills without a prescription in the past, with little action.

“Will this information about the availability of pills being over-the-counter in other countries influence policy here? Probably not,” Grossman said.

“But I do think it helps to put it in perspective that this is not something revolutionary.”

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