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The First Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill Is Here

The first birth control pill that people can buy without a prescription, called Opill, is shipping to stores this week.

Perrigo, the Ireland-based company that makes Opill, said the pills should be available to purchase at retail pharmacies and online by the end of March. The pills are designed to be taken daily at about the same time each day, and they will be sold in one-month packs for $19.99 and three-month packs for $49.99.

A spokesperson for CVS, one pharmacy that will be stocking the pill, said the pills will be in more than 7,500 of its stores nationwide and will be available to order on the store's app. People can opt for same-day delivery or pick-up in store to preserve their privacy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the over-the-counter use of the oral contraceptive last summer in a landmark decision. Women can now walk into any pharmacy or go online to purchase the pills without medical supervision; previously, birth control pills required a prescription and had to be dispensed by a pharmacist.

Opill contains only the hormone progestin and prevents pregnancy in several different ways, including preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs and making the uterus less hospitable for fertilized eggs to implant and grow. Because progestin is active for about 24 hours, it’s important for women to take the pill every day at about the same time for it to be most effective. Under those conditions, Opill is up to 98% effective in preventing pregnancy.

There are side effects linked to the pill, including bleeding, bloating, and abdominal pain. If these are severe and persist, women should report them to their doctor. Opill is not recommended for women with a history of breast cancer or those who are also using other forms of hormonal birth control, such as an IUD, patch, or implant.

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