• October 2012, Washington, DC: Annual working group meeting

    On October 22, 2012, the OCs OTC Working Group held a day-long meeting in Washington, DC, to share recent research developments and discuss emerging issues related to an OTC switch for OCs. More than fifty people from over 35 organizations attended the meeting, which featured eight unique panels. Attendees represented a range of groups and interests including research, reproductive rights and justice, women’s health advocacy and policy, pharmaceuticals, and health care provision.

    Building on the focus of the previous year’s meeting, the 2012 panels provided an overview of the evidence and history of the working group; updated attendees on recent research findings related to OTC access to OCs, including results of a national survey of women at risk of unintended pregnancy on their interest in OTC access, results from participatory research with young women and women of color on OCs OTC, and results from a study on self-screening for contraindications to combined OCs in Tanzania; discussed OTC contraception and age restrictions, including lessons learned from emergency contraception; discussed progestin-only pills (POPs) as the first OTC OC; detailed recent research on and strategies related to cost and insurance coverage for an OTC OC, including an update on the Affordable Care Act and recent research on insurance coverage strategies for OTC contraception; provided an overview on the FDA’s proposal to expand the category of OTC medications under “conditions of safe use;” and brainstormed next steps in moving forward with an OTC switch, including communications strategies and potential stakeholders to engage.

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  • October 2011, Washington, DC: Comprehensive status update on the advancement of OCs OTC and the maintenance of insurance coverage for an OTC option

    In October 2011 the working group held two meetings in Washington, DC. The first day was a general working group meeting, and the second was a meeting with a smaller group of advocates to discuss possible mechanisms for public and private insurance coverage of OCs in an OTC environment.

    Forty-five people participated in the general working group meeting, including clinicians, pharmacists, health researchers, advocates, and representatives of several pharmaceutical companies. The focus of this meeting was to provide an overview of the latest evidence on the safety of OTC use of OCs and women’s and providers’ perspectives on OTC access; review the working group’s decision to move forward with a progestin-only pill (POP) as the first OTC OC; discuss cost and insurance coverage in an OTC environment; and identify strategies for pursuing an OTC switch for a POP product.

    The following day 25 representatives from reproductive rights, health, and justice organizations met to discuss strategies for ensuring Medicaid coverage of OCs in an OTC environment and to explore opportunities for getting private insurance coverage of OTC contraceptives in the wake of health reform. At previous meetings, advocates had identified Medicaid coverage of OTC contraceptives without a prescription as a working group priority to ensure that all women would reap the benefits of an OTC switch. Coverage of OTC drugs, including OTC contraceptives, is optional under Medicaid, but when states do cover them, a prescription is required for federal reimbursement.

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  • May 2010, Washington, DC: Exploring what the research tells us and collaborating with reproductive health and justice advocates on a strategy moving forward

    In May 2010, the working group convened a daylong meeting entitled “Oral contraceptives over-the-counter: Exploring what the research tells us and collaborating with reproductive justice advocates on a strategy moving forward.” Twenty-four people attended the meeting; participants included representatives of reproductive justice, women’s health, and youth-focused organizations. The purpose of the meeting was to explore in greater depth advocates’ concerns and questions about an over-the-counter switch for a progestin-only pill (POP). In addition, participants provided input on working group activities and discussed opportunities for advocates to remain engaged in the working group.

    The meeting was organized around the topics of safety, cost, and health services and referrals; “expert resources” were brought to the table to address these topics and contribute to the discussion. Participants in the meeting agreed that a broad-based campaign to bring a POP over-the-counter appears to be supported by the available data on safety, and that an OTC POP product could increase access for some women. The final part of the meeting focused on next steps. Participants shared their questions and priorities for moving forward and also stated how they would like to stay involved in the working group.

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  • September 2009, New York, NY: Research, communications, and building new partnerships

    In September 2009, the working group held a two-day meeting at the Guttmacher Institute offices in New York. More than 40 people attended, including many who had never participated in the working group before. There were several new advocacy and reproductive justice groups represented, and five pharmaceutical representatives. The meeting focused on the following topical areas: the history of the OCs OTC working group and an update on activities, a review of the regulatory issues related to an OTC switch for OCs, preliminary findings from the stakeholder analysis, an update on recent research findings related to OCs OTC, a review of the economic issues related to an OTC switch for OCs, and pharmacist perspectives on alternative provision models of OCs. The meeting allowed for a great deal of discussion time, including two separate sessions for the communications and research subcommittees.

    Among the important outcomes of this meeting were bringing new partners into the working group, especially among women’s health and reproductive justice advocates; a discussion of the working group’s aims that eventually led to a revision of the group’s statement of purpose to incorporate the working group’s commitment to addressing reproductive health disparities; a decision to focus on a POP as the first candidate for an OTC switch; and a decision to focus on the development of materials for a formal meeting with the FDA, including a draft OTC label and protocols for the actual use and label comprehension studies.

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  • August 2006, New York, NY: Moving forward with research and advocacy

    This meeting focused on developing strategies for moving forward with the working group’s planned research and advocacy activities. The Guttmacher Institute reviewed recent analyses showing racial and economic disparities in contraceptive use in the US, and the working group discussed how OTC access might improve contraceptive access for groups of women with high rates of unintended pregnancy.

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  • February 2006, Washington, DC: Messaging around OTC provision of OCs

    This meeting focused on developing messaging around OTC provision of OCs in order to increase support for our efforts and bring additional perspectives to the discussion. We also invited representatives of colleague professional organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Physicians for Reproductive Choice & Health, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, Medical Students for Choice, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A representative of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association also presented information about the criteria for OTC status and the market for OTC medicines in the U.S.

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  • November 2005, Washington, DC: Questions, opportunities, and concerns raised by the proposal of an OTC switch for oral contraceptives

    On November 3, 2005, a group of women’s health advocates met at the Guttmacher Institute offices in Washington, DC to discuss the questions, opportunities, and concerns raised by the proposal of an OTC switch for oral contraceptives, particularly for women who are currently underserved by the health care system. The objectives of the meeting were to: broaden the range of communities weighing in on an oral contraceptive (OC) over-the-counter (OTC) switch and its potential impact; identify critical unanswered questions about the effect of an OTC switch and frame these questions for further research; and create an opportunity for participants to identify and determine whether and how their organizations might participate in effecting the change of making the OTC switch.

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The Oral Contraceptives Over-the-Counter Working Group is now the Free the Pill coalition!

We are excited to expand our work under the Free the Pill umbrella and continue to leverage the expertise of coalition members to improve and expand equitable contraceptive access. Please visit the Free the Pill website to learn more about the coalition and how organizations and professionals can get involved.

As part of this change, the OCs OTC website has been archived and is being kept available as a historical resource to highlight the work that members of the OCs OTC Working Group have been engaged in since 2004 to build the evidence in support of OTC birth control pills in the United States. If you have any questions about the Free the Pill coalition and our work, please reach out.