First OTC birth control pill available soon: U-M experts can comment

March 4, 2024


The first birth control pill to be sold over-the-counter will arrive on store shelves within days. Opill is not a new formulation, but it received FDA approval to be sold without a prescription last July. U-M experts are available to comment.

Julie Maslowsky is an associate professor at the School of Nursing, a faculty associate of the U-M Institute for Social Research’s Population Studies Center, and an expert on adolescent sexual and reproductive health. She can discuss the public health implications of reducing barriers to contraceptive access, especially as it relates to teens. She served as an independent scientific adviser to HRA Pharma as it sought FDA approval for over-the-counter sales of Opill.

“Over-the-counter access to oral contraception will increase access to safe and effective contraception nationwide at a time when reproductive choices are being limited in many states,” Maslowsky said. “Many pregnancy-capable people in the U.S. struggle to access contraception through the health care system. Due to structural inequities in our health care system, many people live in contraceptive deserts where there are no local contraceptive providers. Making Opill available in retailers will reduce barriers to access for millions of Americans.

“One group in particular who will benefit from over the counter access to Opill is adolescents—who have the highest rates of unintended pregnancy among all age groups in the U.S. Adolescents currently face unique barriers to contraceptive access that adults do not, including limited transportation options to attend a clinic visit, scheduling conflicts due to requirements to attend school, and need for confidentiality that the health care system does not always provide.

“Following the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision, we have seen a spike in interest in effective contraception among adolescents who fear an unintended pregnancy in the current climate of reduced reproductive choices. We have seen hints that teenage childbearing rates will rise for the first time in three decades following the Dobbs decision—rates in Texas rose this year. Opill will provide one safe, effective, and accessible contraceptive option for adolescents who desire it.”


Sarah Miller is an associate professor at the Ross School of Business and a faculty associate of the Institute for Social Research’s Population Studies Center. Her research interests are in health economics and, in particular, the short-term and long-term effects of public policies that expand health insurance coverage, and in the effects of income on health and well-being.

“We know from existing research that the ability to time childbearing can generate a wide range of beneficial impacts on individuals and the economy as a whole, from increasing college degree completion rates to reducing the gender wage gap,” Miller said. “Making birth control available over the counter is a great step in reducing barriers and improving access to this important type of health care.”


Joelle Abramowitz, associate research scientist at the Institute for Social Research, is an expert on the effects of health policies on individuals’ major life decisions and well-being. She has studied health insurance and medical out-of-pocket expenditures as well as marriage and fertility. She currently co-directs the Michigan Federal Statistical Research Data Centers and is an associate research scientist at the Institute for Social Research’s Survey Research Center.

“The availability of the over-the-counter birth control pill has great potential to provide better access to family planning and effective birth control by lowering the barriers to access involved in visiting a doctor to get a prescription,” Abramowitz said.