Nationally representative survey on women’s opinions about over the counter access to oral contraceptives
Awarded 2011
Large Research Grants
Daniel Grossman, MD
Ibis Reproductive Health

Objectives: To assess women’s interest in over-the-counter (OTC) access to oral contraceptive pills (OCPs). Methods: We performed a nationally representative survey of adult women at risk of unintended pregnancy (age 18-44, not pregnant or seeking pregnancy, sexually active, not sterilized) using the Knowledge Networks probability-based web panel. In November-December 2011, 2,046 eligible women completed the survey. Weighted proportions were calculated and logistic regression was used. Results: 62% of participants were in favor of OCPs being available OTC. 37% of women reported being likely to use OCPs if available OTC, including 59% of current users and 30% of women using no method or a less effective method. In regression analysis, younger women; divorced/separated women or those living with a partner but not married; uninsured women and those with private insurance; women living in the south; and current users of OCPs or less effective methods, as well as non-users of contraception, were significantly more likely to report interest in using OTC OCPs. 70% said OTC access would be more convenient, 51% thought it would prevent unintended pregnancy, 23% said it would be more private; 62% thought women might use the wrong pill or might not get Pap smears, 49% worried that insurance would not cover OTC OCs, and 47% thought teens might have sex earlier or more often. On average, women were willing to spend $20 per month for an OTC OCP product. Conclusion: US women are strongly supportive of OTC access to OCs, and many would obtain refills or start using OCPs if they were available OTC. Women’s concerns need to be addressed as efforts move forward for an OTC switch for OCs.