For first OTC birth control pill, price a major question mark

The first over-the-counter contraceptive in the United States is soon to hit the market, but the Biden administration is facing pressure from Democrats and reproductive health groups to ensure it is affordable.

Opil’s manufacturers say they are on track to launch the drug in the first quarter of this year, meaning it could be on shelves by March.

Reproductive health experts say the availability of oral contraceptives without a prescription could be a game-changer, especially for young women and women in rural and underserved areas. Says.

It is more than 90% effective at preventing pregnancy and is more effective than other over-the-counter contraceptives such as condoms and spermicide.

Efforts to make contraceptives available over-the-counter have been underway for years, but the movement took on added urgency after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade and abolished the constitutional right to abortion. Increased sex.

Last week, the White House announced new efforts to expand access to contraceptives. These include requiring insurance companies to cover a wider range of products for free under affordable care, but only when prescribed. Insurance companies typically do not cover OTC products.

Although some states require state-regulated private health insurance plans to cover over-the-counter contraceptives, these rules do not apply to most employer-sponsored plans.

Federal health officials are considering potential changes to how best to ensure coverage and access for OTC products, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) solicited public comments in late September, receiving nearly 400 responses. responses were collected.

But authorities have not yet made any decisions, raising concerns that a patchwork of state policies could blunt Opil’s potential gains if no action is taken.

Kelly Blanchard, president of Ibis Reproductive Health, said, “When Opil comes to market, we want it to be universally accessible, affordable, and affordable for everyone who has insurance. It’s very important that we have access to opils through range.” We are running the Free the Pill campaign.

Blanchard said the Biden administration needs to make clear that the ACA requires coverage for over-the-counter products, because the affordability of contraceptives shouldn’t depend on a person’s ZIP code.

Democratic governors have also called for action from the federal government.

In December, California Governor Gavin Newsom led a coalition of governors in urging HHS to expand private insurance coverage to OTC products and do the same to federally funded health plans such as Medicare and Medicaid. He called on the government to adopt the policy.

“As allies in the fight for reproductive freedom, we urge you to do more to ensure all women have access to the contraceptive services they need,” said Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro. wrote the governors, including North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Governor Maura Healey of Massachusetts, and Governor JB Pritzker of Illinois.

“Without coverage with low or no out-of-pocket costs, over-the-counter contraceptives would be much less accessible,” the researchers wrote.

In Congress, nearly all Senate Democrats are calling on government officials to take concrete steps to ensure that contraceptives are available at no cost or without a prescription.

But for supporters, the commitment to ensuring Opil is affordable extends to the manufacturer, Perrigo, and retailers, who determine the price for people who pay out of pocket. Manufacturers set list prices, but individual retailers ultimately decide how much consumers will spend.

Perrigo has not yet disclosed what the product’s retail price will be, with a spokesperson saying only that “the company is committed to ensuring Opil is available to those who need it.”

Even small costs can create significant barriers and reduce access to medicines.

For example, the FDA approved the first-ever OTC hearing aid in 2022, but the average cost was significantly higher than what you would pay with insurance coverage.

A 2022 KFF survey found that nearly 40 percent of women of reproductive age are willing and able to pay between $1 and $10 a month, but only a minority are willing and able to pay more than $20. It turned out to be about 16%.

On Wednesday, the Free the Pill campaign’s steering committee asked Perrigo not to charge more than $15 for a three-month supply.

“We also advocate for full insurance coverage of OTC contraceptives without a prescription or cost-sharing, but because U.S. health insurance is often tied to employment, high retail prices make OTC contraceptives more expensive. We also know that it may be unaffordable for people who: “do not have employer-based insurance,” the group said in a letter to Perrigo’s leadership.

“The retail price of $15 for a three-month supply ensures that this breakthrough product is affordable for those who face the most barriers to access, many of whom have the least ability to pay.” It helps us deliver at a price.”

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