January 4, 2013 — A majority of countries do not require women to obtain a prescription to purchase oral contraception, according to a study published recently in the journal Contraception, Reuters reports.
For the study, researchers at U.S.-based Ibis Reproductive Health surveyed government health officials, drugmakers, family planning groups, health care providers and other experts in 147 countries.
The study found that 45 countries -- including the U.S. -- require women to have a prescription to obtain oral contraception. Although another 56 countries have laws requiring a prescription, women are still able to access the pills over-the-counter. Thirty-five countries legally allow OTC access to the pills, and 11 countries require women to be screened before they can obtain the pills.
Lead study author Daniel Grossman said higher income countries -- such as Australia, Canada, Japan and the U.S. -- tend to require prescriptions for oral contraception. Grossman speculated that some countries, such as India and China, offer OTC oral contraceptives because of "strong national family planning programs." The lack of prescription requirements also might reflect the countries' attempts to boost access to care where it is not easily available.
"Will this information about the availability of pills being over-the-counter in other countries influence policy [in the U.S.]? Probably not," Grossman said. "But I do think it helps to put it in perspective that this is not something revolutionary," he added (Grens, Reuters, 1/2).
In November, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a policy statement recommending that oral contraceptives be sold without a prescription to help reduce unintended pregnancy rates in the U.S. (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/21/12).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership