America’s first over-the-counter birth control pill has been shipped to retailers across the country and will go on sale in the coming weeks.

Dublin-based company Perrigo announced the first orders of its drug, Opill, had been sent to stores nationwide, including CVS and Walgreens. 

It will be available to pre-order this week from ‘most major pharmacies’ as early as late March. It will also be available online at Opill’s website. 

In both cases, anyone can purchase the drug without a prescription after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Opill for OTC use last July.

According to Perrigo, Opill will be available in one-month and three-month supplies in stores for $19.99 and $49.99. 

Opill is different from other oral contraceptives in that it only contains one hormone - progestin - as opposed to two

Opill is different from other oral contraceptives in that it only contains one hormone – progestin – as opposed to two

Online, a six-month supply will be $89.99. One pill is meant to be taken every day at the same time.

Opill has been hailed ‘historic’ by advocacy and medical groups such as Free the Pill and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which have been lobbying for years to make an over the counter birth control pill available at an affordable price.

Meanwhile, some anti-abortion groups go so far as to equate hormonal birth control with abortion.

March for Life, the organization behind an annual event in which thousands of pro-life activists descend on Washington, DC for an anti-abortion demonstration, argued for many years that hormonal birth control caused abortion.

They call birth control, vaginal rings, and other forms of contraception ‘abortifacients’.

In that group’s eyes, the use of any birth control method that prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb is tantamount to abortion.

Triona Schmelter, executive vice president and president of consumer self-care Americas at Perrigo, said: ‘From an online perspective, it should be available for order pretty much immediately.’

As for stores, she said that ‘it’s going to take a few weeks for it to get through the distribution pipeline, of us shipping to retailers’ distribution facilities and then them shipping to their stores.’ 

Opill has been safely in use for about five decades, but the US has been an outlier when it comes to making the pills available without a doctor’s order. 

Unlike combination pills, Opill does not contain estrogen, which increases the risk of blood clotting by several-fold, the progestin-only pills is seen as lower-risk. 

It works by thickening mucus in the cervix, making it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus and fertilize an egg.

Opill's upcoming availability comes days after CVS and Walgreen's announced they would carry the abortion pill mifepristone

Opill’s upcoming availability comes days after CVS and Walgreen’s announced they would carry the abortion pill mifepristone 

Progestin-only pills do not prevent ovulation to the same extent as combination birth control pills. Therefore, their effectiveness is slightly lower. Opill has been shown to prevent pregnancy from ever occurring 98 percent of the time.

The FDA’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee and the Reproductive and Urologic Drugs Advisory Committee, which met in May to discuss approval and voted unanimously in favor of, had two primary concerns about designating Opill for over-the-counter use. 

The first concern was obesity, which is becoming more prevalent over time. Currently, about four in 10 Americans are deemed medically too fat. In 1960, it was closer to 13 percent. 

Research has shown that obese women who take oral contraceptives have an increased risk of blood clots, though that link is weaker when it comes to progestin-only pills. 

Agency officials said: ‘Although the original clinical trials for norgestrel tablet [mini-pill] do not present data based on weight or BMI, the prevalence of obesity in adults in the United States has changed dramatically since the original clinical studies were conducted over 50 years ago.’

‘The degree to which efficacy of [Opill] is diminished in individuals who are overweight or obese (which together now represent approximately 60% of the U.S. reproductive-aged population … ) remains unknown,’ they added.

FDA officials also worried that making the pill available without a prescription would eliminate the opportunity for doctors to explain to patients the importance of taking the progestin-only pill daily within the same three-hour window of time, raising the risk of missed doses or mistakenly doubling up on doses.

HRA Pharma addressed the concern in an expansive study dubbed ACCESS, which mimicked an OTC environment to see whether people were able to self-screen and take Opill appropriately. 

The study found that 93 percent of people who were taking the mini pill did so on schedule everyday.

Ms Schmelter noted that once Opill becomes available, customers should be able to find it in the family planning section. 

Walgreen’s and CVS have both announced that they will offer Opill. 

CVS spokesperson Matt Blanchette told CNN: ‘Opill will be available at and through the CVS Pharmacy app in late March.’

‘In early April more than 7,500 CVS Pharmacy stores will offer Opill and for added privacy and convenience, customers will be able to choose same-day delivery or buy online and pick-up in store.’

Perrigo’s announcement comes days after CVS and Walgreen’s, two of America’s largest pharmacies, said they will start selling the abortion pill mifepristone in several states this month. 

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