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US regulator approves the first contraceptive available without prescription 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given approval for the birth control pill Opill to be available over-the-counter in the US, making it the first non-prescription birth control. 

Opill is a “mini-pill” that uses the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy. After examining the evidence, the FDA voted unanimously to approve the contraceptive pill for over-the-counter use. 

In a statement, Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said, “Today’s approval marks the first time a nonprescription daily oral contraceptive will be an available option for millions of people in the United States. When used as directed, daily oral contraception is safe and is expected to be more effective than currently available nonprescription contraceptive methods in preventing unintended pregnancy.”

Opill should be available from early next year. According to the manufacturer Perrigo, it will be affordable and accessible, although the official retail price will be announced later this year. 

A recent study found that it’s become harder for women to access birth control in the last few years, with 45% experiencing at least one barrier to reproductive healthcare. 

According to the FDA, “Nonprescription availability of Opill may reduce barriers to access by allowing individuals to obtain an oral contraceptive without the need to first see a health care provider. Almost half of the 6.1 million pregnancies in the U.S. each year are unintended. 

Unintended pregnancies have been linked to negative maternal and perinatal outcomes, including reduced likelihood of receiving early prenatal care and increased risk of preterm delivery, with associated adverse neonatal, developmental, and child health outcomes. 

Availability of nonprescription Opill may help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and their potential negative impacts,” the FDA said in the statement.”

To be effective, the pill needs to be taken at the same time every day. It shouldn’t be used by people who have had breast cancer, and there are some side effects to consider such as irregular bleeding, headaches, and nausea, according to the FDA. 

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