Dr Manny's Notes

Why birth control pills need to be prescribed

I didn’t go to medical school to become an economist.  

That’s why it is with great disappointment that I fail to agree with the latest recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – declaring it is safe to sell birth control pills without prescriptions.

I do agree that birth control pills are relatively safe.  However, there are some patients who require an assessment of risk factors before taking birth control, and some of these can only be identified during a medical visit.  Many women in this country do not realize that lifestyle can affect the potential side effects of any prescription or non-prescription medication.  From obesity and hypertension to smoking and blood-clotting disorders, many factors can influence the behavior of certain drugs – especially birth control.

According to the World Health Organization, many women with certain conditions should refrain from using birth control pills altogether.  These conditions include liver disease, breast cancer, some types of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, coronary artery disease and more.  With so many risk factors coming surrounding “the pill,” I hardly feel that it should be something as easily accessible as ibuprofen.

Even though I understand ACOG’s arguments that many women have difficulty getting an appointment with the doctor for birth control renewal - or that some companies do not cover birth control in their health care plans, to me, this decision is mostly based on economic goals and not about public safety.  

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It seems that the world of medicine is changing. I just hope that we don’t wake up one day and realize that everything that has been built around health care has been lost, like so many other ideals that seem to be fading from this great nation.  

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.