Oral contraceptives should be available to teens over-the-counter, experts say

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Experts say available evidence supports switching oral contraceptives from prescription-only to over-the-counter status, even for teenage girls.

After reviewing decades of regulatory, behavioural and scientific evidence, the team of paediatric, adolescent and women's health experts concluded that giving teens easier access to contraceptives is critical to ensuring that those in need can use effective contraceptives.

"Decades of research show that a majority of adolescents initiate sex before the age of 18 and that earlier use of contraception reduces the risk of teen pregnancy. Our review strongly suggests that giving teens easier access to various contraceptives will not lead to more sex but would result in fewer unwanted pregnancies," said lead author, Krishna Upadhya, assistant professor of paediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

According to the review, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, contraceptive failure rate in teens versus young women showed no significant differences, and in one study 90 per cent of teens correctly answered questions about oral contraceptives. The authors say the evidence suggests that most teens have the reasoning skills to make informed decisions about oral contraceptives.