FDA schedules advisory committee meeting for over-the-counter birth control pill to take place May 9-10

March 2023 | Statement

The FDA announced today that an advisory committee meeting is scheduled for May 9 and 10 to review the first-ever application for an over-the-counter birth control pill. In July 2022, HRA Pharma announced it had submitted this application to the FDA to switch Opill, a progestin-only, daily birth control pill, from prescription to over-the-counter status.

The two-day advisory committee meeting will begin on May 9, which also marks Free the Pill Day, a movement-led celebration to commemorate the anniversary of the FDA approving the first birth control pill in 1960. This Free the Pill Day, we’re truly closer than ever to birth control pills being available without a prescription in the United States.

Free the Pill has long advocated for a timely, science-based review of an over-the-counter birth control pill. In January 2022, the coalition sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf emphasizing the importance of and strong science behind an over-the-counter pill. While the FDA initially scheduled this advisory committee meeting for November 18, 2022, they announced in October that they would postpone that meeting. On March 17, the coalition sent a letter to the Commissioner urging the agency to reschedule the meeting and commit to a timely review of the application.

Victoria Nichols, project director of Free the Pill, a project of Ibis Reproductive Health focused on bringing birth control pills over the counter in the United States, released the following statement –

After nearly two-decades of coalition-driven efforts, we are on the cusp of making birth control pills more equitably accessible. It’s time to free the pill and ensure that those who have long faced the most barriers to care due to systemic inequities have access to an over-the-counter birth control pill that is priced affordably and covered by insurance. The days of the current prescription requirement – a barrier that disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, Latina/x, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, LGBTQ+ folks, young people, people with disabilities, and those working to make ends meet – are numbered. As the FDA convenes its Advisory Committee meeting this Free the Pill Day, we’ll truly be closer than ever to birth control pills being available over the counter.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, director of the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) program at the University of California, San Francisco and Free the Pill coalition steering committee member released the following statement –

It is past time for the FDA to follow the science and make birth control pills available over the counter. Oral contraceptives are one of the safest medications I can prescribe to my patients, and the science is clear that they are safe and effective for over-the-counter use. The prescription requirement serves as a medically unnecessary barrier that continues to keep care out of reach.

Janette Robinson Flint, executive director of Black Women for Wellness released the following statement –

We are glad to see the FDA taking a step forward towards making over-the-counter birth control pills a reality. For too long, barriers to contraception have fallen disproportionately hard on Black women and other communities of color. Access to the full range of reproductive health care, including affordable and accessible over-the-counter birth control pills, is crucial for Black women to control our lives and our destinies.

Maia Lopez, an organizer with Advocates for Youth released the following statement –

As a 17 year old in Texas, I am thrilled that FDA-approved, over-the-counter birth control pills could finally become an option In the United States. Young people like me were recently banned from getting confidential access to birth control from health care providers in Texas, yet our peers in more than 100 other countries around the world can walk into their local drug store and buy birth control pills over the counter. Using birth control is a responsible thing to do. We should make it easier, not harder, for young people to protect their health.  The prescription-only requirement is a relic of the past that puts up barriers for young people who want to do the right thing. Young people like me trust the FDA to do their job and follow the science. I look forward to watching the hearing in May.

Birth control shouldn’t be something that’s only available to people who live in certain states or whose parents happen to be open to it. It is essential healthcare that every single one of us should have access to, no matter our age, race, income, or life circumstance.