As Congress fights deficits, birth control pill prices rise


    The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, a federal spending law that allocates drug prices, is causing an increase in the nominal — or minimum — cost of birth control.

    p. The law also eliminates the group discount policy that allows many universities to purchase name-brand drugs for their campus pharmacies. Many family-planning and health organizations are outraged over the decision.

    p. “We’re definitely losing sleep over [the legislation]. It’s very frustrating — there were already high deductibles because of the insurance companies and they’re just getting higher,” Advocacy Coordinator for Planned Parenthood Margie Rashti said. “Unfortunately, it makes us have to raise our prices.”

    p. The American College Health Association is now attempting to counter the price increases.

    p. “I want the ACHA membership to know that we are pursuing several means in which we might lessen the impact that the DRA will have on your student health services,” ACHA President Dorothy Kozlowski said in a letter sent to association members.

    p. “We are actively engaging the support and expertise of the ACHA Advocacy Committee, which considers any legislation, regulation or policy development dealing with college students’ access to reproductive health care … This issue will also be a priority for the ACHA Board of Directors annual Capitol Hill visit in February 2007.”

    p. Many groups who oppose the legislation are looking to Congress for change.

    p. “ [The increase] will definitely be a problem for quite a while. A lot depends on the Democrats in Congress and what they push. We support making birth control a part of basic health care that would be available to everyone. There’s more of a chance for that with the Democrats in control,” Rashti said.

    p. At the College’s health center, prices have remained fairly consistent. The pharmacy chooses to stock generic pills as opposed to their more expensive brand-name counterparts, allowing for a significantly lower cost to the consumer. Some of the pills offered are Tri-Sprintec, the generic form of Ortho Tri-Cyclen, and Aviane, the generic form of Alesse. All generic pills cost $24 at the College pharmacy, whereas the name-brand costs would range from $45-$60 on a college campus.

    p. “I don’t foresee this law affecting students [at the College] because we will still be offering generic medications at a competitive price with CVS and other pharmacies,” pharmacist Maureen Bounds said.

    p. Generic versions of birth control do not equate a lower value because of a lower cost. It is more economical for the College to stock these drugs, and more convenient for students who are avoiding an expensive fee.

    p. In her letter, Kozlowski “encouraged those who do not already do so to use generic contraceptives when possible as an alternative.”

    p. Planned Parenthood agrees, advocating generics as “just as effective, cheaper, and more available.”

    p. Although generic medicine costs will not rise, existing deals that the College pharmacy had with name-brand manufacturers will be terminated as a result of this law. The NuvaRing, which is now offered on campus for the low cost of $20, will no longer be available. Also, Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, which is now sold for $18 a month, will no longer be carried.

    p. The pharmacy will recommend students to the local Planned Parenthood for these drugs. Planned Parenthood carries the NuvaRing for $22 a month, a relatively low price compared to the average pharmacy’s cost of $50 per month. However, this price will continue to rise with the new law.

    p. The few name-brand pills offered at the College are more expensive. The cost of Plan B, also known as the “morning-after pill,” is $35 and it is available over-the-counter to all females 18 years of age or older.

    p. Another name brand medication, Depo Provera, costs $50 for the serum and the injection. Although it used to be quite popular, a recent study has shown that the drug may cause bone loss. Now the drug is only available by prescription, but its use has dropped significantly.