Sales begin for first over-the-counter birth control pill in U.S.

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Over-the-counter birth control pill arrives

First over-the-counter birth control pill now available 01:23

The rollout is underway for the first over-the-counter birth control pill approved in the United States, with online sales kicking off Monday. It will also soon be available in major retailers like CVS and Walgreens.

The pill, known by the brand name Opill, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for OTC use in July, making it the first daily birth control cleared for sale without a prescription in the U.S. 

The FDA says the drug is about 93% effective and generally safe for most people who could get pregnant, including those as young as 15. Currently, there are no age restrictions on the drug’s sale. 

As Nancy Chen reported on CBS Mornings” Tuesday, the availability of the pill online is “a major game-changer for women who either aren’t near or can’t get to a local pharmacy or doctor.”

How much does Opill cost?

A one-month supply costs about $20, while a six-month supply goes for $90. Insurance may cover the cost of the pill, depending on your plan.

Perrigo, the drug’s manufacturer, announced earlier this month that it will also come in a three-month supply, with the suggested retail price of $49.99.

How does Opill work?

Opill must be taken at the same time everyday. It is a type of progestin-only pill, meaning it does not contain estrogen.

“Progestin-only pills have been a trusted contraceptive option for decades, yet obtaining a prescription for birth control pills creates unnecessary barriers for many,” Dr. Melissa J. Kottke stated in a company news release earlier this month.

“Creating additional opportunities for contraceptive access is critical in helping people reach their reproductive goals,” added Kottke, an Atlanta-based obstetrician-gynecologist who served as a paid consultant to Perrigo during the FDA approval process, 

The FDA says Opill is “safe and effective” when used properly. It should not be used as an emergency contraceptive or used along with another hormonal birth control product, including IUDs (intra-uterine devices).

Opill also should not be used by those who have or have ever had breast cancer, the FDA says. “Consumers who have any other form of cancer should ask a doctor before use,” the FDA stated in a news release.

Opill side effects

According to the FDA, the most common side effects of Opill include:

  • Irregular bleeding
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Increased appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramps or bloating

Hormone-based pills, which have all required a prescription until now, have long been the most common form of birth control in the U.S. Tens of millions of women have used them since the first pills came on the market in the 1960s. 

-Nancy Chen and Kate Gibson contributed to this report.

Sara Moniuszko

Sara Moniuszko is a health and lifestyle reporter at CBSNews.com. Previously, she wrote for USA Today, where she was selected to help launch the newspaper’s wellness vertical. She now covers breaking and trending news for CBS News’ HealthWatch.

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