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Should birth control pills be sold over the counter without a prescription?

July 15, 2012

After fifty years of widespread use, birth control pills have a pretty clean record.

They work, the side effects are small and every woman can decide for herself if she wants them.  So why do women need a costly doctors visit and an insurers permission to buy what could be a cheap and effective consumer product?

Background:

In the past twenty years a few types of prescription drugs have become available over the counter.  One of the best know is the anti ulcer pills like Pepcid.  When I was a teen my stepfather had an ulcer.  He modified his diet and drank lots of milk.  I don’t remember if it helped.  A few years later, scientists found that many ulcers are caused by the H Pylori bacteria and can be effectively treated with a Proton Pump Inhibitor pill.  After many years as a prescription drug a few branded PPI pills went off prescription about ten years ago.

So now do we have some data?

  • Did PPI drugs become more available?
  • Did consumers have more choices after the change?
  • Did prices drop as predicted?
  • Were there increases in significant side effects after removing the prescription barrier?

Readers with answers should post them in the comments and I’ll update the post to reflect their input.

If non-prescription birth control pills expanded competition in this market so they became better, cheaper and more effective… wouldn’t that be better?

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