Following a review of published studies, a group of women’s, pediatric, and teen health professionals concluded that evidence favors giving oral contraceptives over-the-counter (OTC) status.
The Johns Hopkins-led review team studied adolescent-specific data concerning oral contraceptive safety issues, the effect OTC access may have on teen sexual behaviors, and on clinical counseling opportunities.
Oral contraceptives, commonly called "the pill," is the most popular method of hormonal birth control in the U.S. Approximately 54 percent of women aged 15 to 19 have used it. Proponents of giving the pill OTC status say it will promote contraceptive use, further reducing teen pregnancy and abortion rates. This is supported by evidence showing the drop in U.S. teen pregnancy risk between 2007 and 2012 is entirely owed to increased use of contraception.
Those opposing OTC status for oral contraceptives fear it will lead to increased teen sex, and more sexually transmitted disease. They also have concerns about the long-term use of contraceptives.
For a drug to switch from prescription to OTC status it must be safe for self-administration, be effective when self-administered, treat a concern that can be self-diagnosed, and be administered using easily understood instructions.
The FDA has already established that the pill is safe and effective for all post-menarche women, and studies indicate most teens have the capacity to make informed choices about oral contraceptive use. Research also suggests the daily routine of taking the pill makes it more likely to be used consistently than other types of contraception, such as condoms.
“Oral contraceptives are popular, safe and effective methods of pregnancy prevention for women and teens,” says researcher Dr. Krishna Upadhya, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Our review emphasizes that any future over-the-counter pill has the potential to benefit teens, and there is no scientific rationale to restrict access based on age.”
Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: Joshua Siniscal