June 25, 2024

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In this photo illustration, a package of Opill is displayed on March 22, 2024 in San Anselmo, California. 

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

CVS Health on Thursday said its drug plans will cover the first over-the-counter birth control pill in the U.S. at no cost for many health plan sponsors, a decision that could open the door for more people to prevent unintended pregnancies without a prescription. 

The company’s pharmacy benefit manager, CVS Caremark, said the pill will be added to its preventive services oral contraceptives list and will be covered at zero cost for many sponsors. The drug, known as Opill from Perrigo, was available at pharmacies starting April 1, according to a pharmacy update from CVS Caremark dated last week and viewed by CNBC.

Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, maintain lists of drugs covered by health insurance plans and negotiate drug discounts with manufacturers. At most stores, Opill has a retail price of $19.99 for a one-month supply and $49.99 for a three-month supply. 

The Food and Drug Administration approved Perrigo’s medication in July. It marks the first time that many U.S. residents are able to buy birth control pills over the counter, the same way they would purchase common pills like Tylenol or Advil. 

The drug could significantly expand availability of contraception, especially for younger women and those in rural and underserved communities who often have trouble getting access to birth control methods. 

Medical organizations have estimated that 45% of the 6 million annual pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended.

The pill’s entrance into the market is a win for the Biden administration, which has tried to shore up reproductive rights as abortion restrictions rise in many states. 

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling more than a year ago, which ended 50 years of federal abortion rights, has led to shrinking availability of the procedure nationwide and renewed calls for expanded access to birth control.

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