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Keywords:

  • oral contraceptives;
  • nonprescription drugs;
  • over-the-counter status;
  • OTC;
  • delivery of health care;
  • community pharmacy;
  • collaborative drug therapy

Addressing the issue of unintended pregnancy is a national priority. One proposed strategy to reduce unintended pregnancy is to improve access to oral contraceptives by changing them to over-the-counter (OTC) status. Existing data indicate that oral contraceptives meet safety criteria required of OTC products. Available literature demonstrates that women can self-screen for contraindications to oral contraceptives and can do this as well as clinicians, and experience with OTC emergency contraception suggests that OTC oral contraceptives would not increase sexual risk-taking behavior. Women support OTC access to oral contraceptives, but express an interest in accessing pharmacist counseling. On the basis of these data, the Women's Health Practice and Research Network of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy supports changing oral contraceptives to OTC status under two conditions: that they are sold where a pharmacist is on duty and that there are mechanisms in place to cover OTC contraceptives through Medicaid. Future research should address the issues of out-of-pocket costs to individuals, label-comprehension studies, and models for pharmacist reimbursement for time spent counseling on contraception.