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Online sales begin for first over-the-counter birth control pill in US

Online sales began Monday for the first over-the-counter birth control pill approved in the U.S.

The product, Opill, can be bought online at Amazon and directly from Opill.com, said Sara Young, senior vice president and chief consumer officer at Perrigo, the pill’s manufacturer. Once the drugs are in stock, Walgreens and Walmart will sell them online, as well. Orders will be fulfilled within 24 to 48 hours, according to Young, and will usually arrive in three to five business days. 

Depending on the location of the store, Opill can also be purchased in person at Walgreens and CVS. The first shipments were sent earlier this month, so most other pharmacies and major retailers across the country should have the pills on shelves in the family planning aisle in the coming weeks.

A CVS spokesman earlier this month said more than 7,500 CVS Pharmacy stores will offer Opill beginning in early April, and customers will be able to choose same-day delivery or buy online and pick-up in store for added privacy and convenience.

In an FAQ posted to the Opill website, Perrigo said the order is shipped in discreet packaging.

“You can trust that we use plain, unbranded packaging for all shipments,” the company said.

A month’s supply will carry a recommended cost of $19.99, while the company recommends a three-month supply cost of $49.99. Opill.com also sells a six-month supply for $89.99.

Opill contains only one hormone, a progestin called norgestrel. When used as directed, it starts working 48 hours after taking the first pill and is 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

Opill has been available with a prescription since 1973, but federal regulators approved it for use without a prescription last July.

Perrigo has established a patient assistance program for people who don’t have insurance and can’t afford Opill, but cost could still be a barrier.

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover preventive services including specific types of birth control, but only if they are prescribed. Insurers usually don’t cover over-the-counter (OTC) products.

Studies have shown even a small cost barrier could present significant challenges to accessibility.

The push to make birth control available over the counter has been happening for years, but after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the constitutional right to an abortion, the movement took on more urgency.

But while the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization gave a jolt of energy to the reproductive rights movement, it also has made it harder to separate the issue of contraception from the politics of abortion. For instance, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his Dobbs concurring opinion that the Supreme Court should reconsider Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 decision that established a right to use contraception.

States could impose restrictions on Opill, especially as it was approved without a minimum age limit. Pharmacists may also choose not to dispense it because they find contraception morally objectionable.

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