JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In the coming months, the country’s first over-the-counter daily birth control pill will be on store shelves. 

Opill is the first contraceptive approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that will no longer require a visit to your doctor. In a state where all but one county is in a health professional shortage, Missouri Family Health Council said this is a step in the right direction in removing some of the barriers Missourians face. 

“When it comes to the safety net, we’re already at capacity and already have many holes,” Executive Director for the Missouri Family Health Council Michelle Trupiano said. “We don’t have enough resources to meet the demand across the state.”

With the approval of the first-ever over the counter birth control pill, Trupiano said this will ensure more options for women, especially in healthcare deserts. 

“The fact is that not everyone can get into a provider or there are not enough providers especially in rural areas where there are long waiting periods,” Trupiano said. 

The pill is expected to hit store shelves in early 2024. This historic decision is also receiving praise from Missouri’s top politician. 

“I’ve been supportive of contraceptive being available over the counter,” Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley said. “I think the FDA doing that is a positive.”

The Ireland-based manufacturer, Perrigo, said it won’t start shipping the pill until early 2024 and there will be no age restrictions. 

Opill was originally approved by the FDA as a prescription in 1973. The mini-pill contains progestin and is taken daily. 

A concern is what the oral contraceptive will cost and if it will be covered by insurance. 

“This is for especially folks that we normally work with in the safety net community and people who may be uninsured, this may still be unattainable to them depending upon the cost,” Trupiano said. 

Trupiano said Opill is only one form of birth control and might not be the right method for everyone but believes this is opening the door for other contraceptives to be available without a prescription. 

“We still highly recommend that Missourians have their annual wellness exams,” Trupiano said. “There is a lot that happens between a patient and their provider in terms of the conversations that they have.”

This FDA approval comes at a time when Congress is discussing the funding for the federal Title X Family Planning Program, providing reproductive healthcare to low-income patients. Trupiano said if not fully funded, dozens of healthcare clinics in Missouri could close. 

“If you are to cut out a well-know, high-volume family planning provider from your safety net, it’s going to impact the entire safety net because now patients have to try and go to other places and those places don’t have the resources and the capacity to meet that need,” Trupiano said. 

The Missouri Family Health Council recently launched its free “EC Campaign,” which allows Missourians to receive free contraceptives via the mail. 

“Our campaign was partial in the response to Dobbs, of what we can do to support greater access in the landscape that we are in, but we know that there is such misinformation around emergency contraception and other forms of contraceptives,” Trupiano said. “The kit includes two doses of emergency contraception and other safe sex supplies, such a lube and condoms and sexual health materials, and it also links to one of our health centers if folks want ongoing services.”