What to know about Opill, the 1st over-the-counter birth control pill

In the coming weeks, Americans will be able to purchase Opill over the counter from places like CVS and Walgreens without a prescription.
Boxes of Opill, the first over-the-counter birth control pill.
Posted at 10:39 AM, Mar 05, 2024

The first over-the-counter birth control pill in the United States will soon be available for purchase. It’s called Opill, and a one-month supply will run about $19.99, while a three-month supply will cost about $49.99.

Opill is what's called a "minipill." These minipills only contain one type of hormone: progesterone. Their job is to make the cervical mucus thicker, stopping sperm from reaching and fertilizing an egg. 

Minipills are different from the more popular combination pills, which contain both progesterone and estrogen. They work by preventing women from ovulating, which means no egg is released.

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Minipills are considered to be safe for most people. They do not increase the risk of blood clots, a potential concern with combination pills. However, combination pills are more effective at preventing pregnancy – about 99% effective when used correctly. 

Opill is not that far behind at 98% effective, according to the manufacturer. It’s also important to take Opill at the same time every day for it to be that effective.

The Food and Drug Administration noted that the most common side effects of Opill include irregular bleeding, headaches, dizziness, nausea, increased appetite, abdominal pain, cramps or bloating.

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As noted in the label information, some women may have a mild allergic reaction when taking Opill and might experience skin rash, itchiness and flushing. It’s not known how common this reaction may be.

Also important to note is the minipill is not the best choice for women who:

- currently have breast cancer or had it in the past

- have specific liver diseases.

- experience unexplained uterine bleeding

- take certain medications for tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, or to manage seizures

In addition, Opill should not be combined with other forms of hormonal birth control products like the contraceptive patch or implant, a contraceptive injection or intrauterine device.

While Opill will soon hit shelves at major retailers and also be available online, women should talk to their doctor first and know their full medical history, what medications they're taking, and review the label and instructions. As with any medication, patients should seek medical attention if they experience serious side effects.

This story was originally published by Dr. Partha Nandi at Scripps News Detroit.