Group Seeks More Contraception
Special Report - July 15, 2010
The Oral Contraceptive Over-the-Counter Working Group is urging the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve an over-the-counter version of the birth control pill within the next five years. According to a July 7 Newsweek story, the group argues that the current “prescription-only access to birth control is patronizing to women, limits contraceptive freedom, and is ineffective against intractably high teen-pregnancy rates.” According to the Working Group’s web site, current members include several pro-abortion organizations, including the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Guttmacher Institute, Medical Students for Choice, the National Institute for Reproductive Health, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Population Council, and Ibis Reproductive Health among others. They cite economics, insurance logistics, and doctors’ office policies as barriers limiting women’s access to contraceptive drugs. The group has complained that doctors are holding contraception hostage as a means of ensuring women continue to see their doctor for cancer and pelvic screenings. Additionally, they cite data from the Guttmacher Institute, which found that nearly 20 percent of sexually active teens do not want to get pregnant, but are not using contraception, while stating “teenage girls who do not use contraception during their first sexual experience are twice as likely to become teen mothers,” which the group thinks could be mitigated by more easy access to oral contraceptives.
To date, the FDA has never approved any “chronic use” drug taken daily for an unlimited amount of time for over-the-counter sales. The proposed contraceptive drug would be the first. Most oral contraceptives are “combined” pills, which contain synthetic estrogen and synthetic progesterone, known as progestin. According to the FDA, the side effects of the combined version of The Pill can include, dizziness, nausea, changes in a woman’s cycle, mood changes, weight gain, increased blood pressure, blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. The progestin-only version of The Pill is associated with irregular bleeding, weight gain, and breast tenderness. The Working Group hopes to bring a progestin-only pill to the over-the-counter market. Plan B, the so-called “morning after pill,” and Next Choice, are contraceptive drugs containing progestin and currently approved by the FDA for over-the-counter application. Additionally, Ella, the abortifacient five-day “emergency contraceptive” which recently received approval from an FDA advisory panel, consists of progestin.
Recently, “28 Days on the Pill,” a documentary that explores the abortifacient qualities of the pill and the importance of providing women with complete and accurate information on how it works, was released. The documentary can be accessed here along with additional information.
Newsweek quoted Shelly Burgess, an FDA representative as saying, “The FDA would consider applications to switch oral contraceptives from prescription to nonprescription marketing status.” The article went on to quote her, “Companies interested in marketing an oral contraceptive as a nonprescription product would need to provide data to demonstrate that the proposed oral contraceptive can be used appropriately and safely by consumers without the input of a health-care provider.”
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