Since oral contraceptives were first introduced in the 1960s, scientists have conducted extensive research on these popular birth control options that has repeatedly demonstrated their safety and effectiveness. Likewise, many physicians have argued that they should be available as over-the-counter birth control options, rather than medications that require a prescription. This idea has even received bipartisan support in congress, although the two parties tend to disagree about who should pay for over-the-counter birth control.
Until recently, the primary roadblock facing over-the-counter birth control has been the unwillingness of pharmaceutical companies to undertake the long FDA approval process.
Now, however, a French company called HRA Pharma is working with the Massachusetts-based nonprofit group IBIS Reproductive Health to get the FDA approval that would bring over-the-counter contraceptives to the US market.
“At HRA, we are proud of our pioneering work to expand access to contraception for millions of women,” said a company spokesperson in a statement to Vox. “Oral Contraceptives are some of the best-studied medicines on the market today and enjoy longstanding support from medical and public health experts.”
HRA Pharma has reportedly already begun the early stages of the research and application process, but they have been hesitant to provide concrete estimates as to when their OTC contraceptive will be ready to go to market. “Within a few years,” seems to be the general consensus from the company.
There has been some concern that the approval could be delayed or even halted if a Republican-controlled Congress makes good on its promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Fortunately, though, the approval process will ultimately fall on FDA scientists, not politicians.
It might take a couple of years for over-the-counter contraceptives to come to a pharmacy near you, but we’re thrilled to hear that this first big hurdle is finally being overcome thanks to the efforts of HRA Pharma and IBIS Reproductive health.