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Going Over the Counter? Legislators to Debate Future of the Pill

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"It is discriminatory, degrading, and paternalistic," says Grimes, explaining that doctors should not be able to withhold the pill just to get women into the office.

But even Grimes and Hatcher reluctantly agree that it would be preferable for women to get their initial prescription from a doctor, although both say that this should not be a barrier to switching the pill from a prescription drug to an over-the-counter drug.

There is no question that the pill should be available for emergency contraception, says Larry Sasich, PharmD, MPH, a spokesman for the watchdog group Public Citizen, which closely monitors FDA actions on behalf of consumers. And although the group would not support the switch to over the counter for a whole class of drugs, it would support the switch of individual products if the data merited it, he says.

Vital Information:

  • The FDA has scheduled a meeting in late June to discuss whether birth control pills, among other medications, should be available over the counter.
  • The pill has several health benefits, but its risks have not yet fully been determined.
  • Over-the-counter status also would make the pill available for emergency contraception.
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