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No Periods, No Pain?

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"If you're older -- 35 -- and thinking about getting pregnant, you may want to stay with the more standard pill, just until we have numbers, until we have a randomized study."

As for all the pill brands on the market, "If it were clear that one was better than the others, I or any other clinician would say so," Hatcher tells WebMD. "The pills are all quite similar, and they all have huge margins of safety. For most women, their huge benefits are dramatically greater than their risks, and therefore money becomes the big factor in which to buy.

"One of the biggest reasons why people discontinue their pills is because of money," he says. "That's one of the reasons why I'm strongly in favor of over-the-counter pills. ... The cost of pills is just ridiculous. You can produce the product for 10 to 14 cents a cycle. Women are paying 30 and 40 dollars."

Over-the-counter pills are safe for most women, Hatcher says. "If a woman can safely take estrogen, then she can safely take any of the pills that have less than 50 mg of estrogen in the formula," he says. Only women at risk of blood clots should be cautious, he adds.

Further, Hatcher says, allowing their sale over-the-counter would allow more women to take advantage of the pill's positive side effects.

"The big non-contraceptive benefit of all pills [is] decreased menstrual pain and cramps, which is the leading cause of women missing work," Hatcher tells WebMD. "And they all have a dramatic protective effect against ovarian cancer. -->

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