Murray proposes that insurers fully cover over-the-counter birth control if FDA approves

WASHINGTON — “The pill is safe and effective and essential,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D) WA when referencing the FDA’s decision to move forward and allow a contraceptive pill to possibly become the first over-the-counter birth control medication.

The senator says getting birth control onto the shelves of your local pharmacy is a priority and she was joined by her fellow lawmakers early Thursday morning to speak out on the issue.

Murray has proposed what is being dubbed the Affordability is Access Act. It would ensure that FDA approval of OTC birth control would mean that insurers fully cover over-the-counter birth control without any out-of-pocket costs.

The FDA last week recommended approval for the first-ever application for over-the-counter birth control. The drug is called Opill and it actually was first approved by the FDA back in the 1970s, but the advisory panel decided the benefits of the drug outweigh some of the risks as far as putting it into the OTC market. Over-the-counter medications are usually cheaper than prescriptions, but in general, insurance companies don’t cover them. The FDA’s decision will only apply to drug maker Perrigo’s O-pill. It would be the first and only brand of pill available OTC so Murray wants to make sure it’s accessible.

“The Affordability is Access Act will make sure that once the FDA determines an over-the-counter option to be safe and effective for use without a prescription that pill is fully covered by insurance, just like every other FDA-approved birth control,” said Murray.

Murray admitted that the fight now for affordable OTC birth control is more important than ever in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s right to have an abortion.

The Catholic Medical Association in a recent release said it had “deep concern and disappointment” regarding the FDA decision on OTC contraceptives. The group’s president, Dr Craig Treptow said, “Given the extensive medical studies demonstrating the risks and adverse effects of hormonal contraceptives, CMA is disappointed and concerned for the health and safety of women across the United States.”

Even though Murray and her fellow lawmakers are trying to push legislation to guarantee access to OTC birth control, the process with the FDA isn’t done. The agency will have another vote on the recommendation this summer. If it’s approved, Opill could be on shelves by the end of this year.