May 11, 2023

Catholic Medical Association Statement on FDA Support of Making Birth Control Available Over the Counter

Philadelphia, PA- May 11, 2023- Catholic Medical Association (CMA) expresses its deep concern and disappointment regarding the decision by a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel to support over-the-counter (OTC) availability of hormonal contraceptives.

“Given the extensive medical studies demonstrating the risks and adverse effects of hormonal contraceptives, CMA is disappointed and concerned for the health and safety of women across the United States,” said Craig Treptow, M.D., President of CMA.

Over the past twenty years, a range of medical publications such as Lancet and the American Journal of Psychiatry have reported increased risk of a wide variety of problems, including breast cancer, brain tumor, HIV transmission, and suicide.

“More troubling are statements by the World Health Organization that classifies oral contraceptives as a Class 1 carcinogen. Even the National Cancer Institute reports increased risk of breast and cervical cancer with these drugs. Cavalier approval of these drugs for OTC sale seemingly ignores these conclusions,” said Tim Millea, M.D., Chair of CMA’s Health Care Policy Committee.

“If fully approved by the FDA, the social impact of that decision would be dramatic. More women, particularly adolescents and young adults, will develop these adverse effects. In addition, as they will no longer need medical evaluation to receive contraceptives, the delayed and missed diagnosis of cancer and sexually transmitted infections will become common. Sex traffickers will be free to purchase OTC contraceptives for the women under their control. This is not a victory for women’s health,” added Dr. Millea.

“This shows a total lack of regard for a woman’s health to offer a hormonal contraceptive available over the counter, without medical supervision. Women should be seen by a physician to make sure a drug as potent as a birth control pill is safe for her to take. These women deserve authentic medical care,” said Kathleen Raviele, M.D., an OBGYN who is on CMA’s Board of Directors.

Lester Ruppersberger, D.O., who like Dr. Raviele is an OBGYN and former President of CMA, said “This FDA decision to make powerful hormonal contraceptives as over the counter medications is an egregious affront to the health and welfare of all women of childbearing age who may avail themselves of these risky and potentially life threatening and cancer causing medications. We strongly oppose this decision on the basis of risk vs. benefit as applied to all medically professionally prescribed medications.”

Earlier this week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a recommendation that women should be checked for breast cancer at age 40, rather than the previous 50. With the potential availability of OTC contraceptives and the recognized risk of breast cancer, such a recommendation would be necessary to save women’s lives.

The provision of OTC contraceptives is a decision based on convenience. America’s women deserve a decision that is focused on their best interests.

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