ACOG Statement on OTC Access to Contraception

September 9, 2014

Washington, DC -- John C. Jennings, MD, President of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, released the following statement regarding proposals to make contraceptives available over-the-counter to American women:

“Birth control is an essential component of women’s health care, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports efforts to increase affordable, reliable access for American women to the contraceptives they need, when they need them.

“Because of this, ACOG supports making oral contraceptives available over-the-counter (OTC). OTC availability of oral contraceptives will help more women get the contraceptives they need, which have long been proven safe enough to use without a prescription – especially emergency contraception.

“We feel strongly, however, that OTC access to contraceptives should be part of a broader dialogue about improving women’s health care, preventing unintended pregnancies, and increasing use of contraception, including long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). Over-the-counter access should not be used as a political tool by candidates or by elected officials.

“Regardless of any current or future proposals from lawmakers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved oral contraceptives for over-the-counter use, and any future FDA approval for such use would likely cover only a subset of oral contraceptive formulations.

“Of course, cost continues to be a major factor in a woman’s consistent use of contraception, and many women simply cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs associated with contraceptives, OTC or not.  That’s why ACOG strongly supports the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that mandates insurance coverage of birth control, as well as other preventive services, without cost-sharing for the patient.

“Separately, OTC access to oral contraceptives alone will not help to increase use of the most highly effective methods, such as intrauterine devices (IUD). IUDs are more effective than oral contraceptives, and because they can last for as many as ten years, they are also cost-effective. However, their initial out-of-pocket costs – which can near $1,000 – can be prohibitive for women who don’t have comprehensive insurance coverage.

“It is also important to note that over-the-counter access to contraceptives does not obviate the need for women to see their gynecologist each year. An annual health assessment is a fundamental part of medical care for all patients, including women, and allows women to discuss with their gynecologists their reproductive health plans, learn about birth control options other than oral contraceptives, and receive important preventive health services, such as vaccines.

“Recent political discussions on the importance of OTC access to contraceptives are welcome, but ACOG remains firmly in support of comprehensive strategies to increase adoption of more-effective methods and to provide all women with the contraceptives they need at no cost.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 58,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization.

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American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
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