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Birth Control Costs More in Low-Income Neighborhoods?

Prescription birth control costs more in a some low-income neighborhoods than high-income areas, according to a study analyzing Florida’s prescription drug data.

According to the Huffington Post, preliminary findings from the study released Monday at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists meeting in New Orleans showed low-income women appear to be paying more for prescription contraceptives in Florida.

Physicians at the University of Tennessee, who led the study, analyzed cost data from, which collects pricing information on 150 commonly used prescription drugs. Developed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) in Florida, the website reports the monthly cost of a prescription drug without any discounts, supplements or insurance.

The study took seven common contraceptives into consideration, including pills and transvaginal options. The data was cross-referenced with 2010 household income data in those counties.

Researchers found nearly every contraceptive cost more in a low-income zip code than in wealthier ones. Two of the contraceptives were significantly less in high-income zip codes, while others were only a few dollars less.

Missing from the study is data showing if women in these areas utilize federally funded clinics, which offer free birth control or sliding scale services, according Dr. Jeffrey Peipert, vice chair of clinical research at the Washington University in St. Louis Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

However, he did agree that access to birth control is a major factor in unwanted pregnancy in the U.S. "We have so many barriers in the U.S., and we have rates of unintended pregnancy that are far higher than other developed countries," he said.

"The big question is why don't we, in the U.S., level the playing field so all women can have equal access to no-cost contraception?" Peipert asked. "Why should we have any inequities at all?"

In an April 23 letter to the editor of the New York Times, chairman of the board of Physicians for Reproductive Health, Douglas W. Laube, said it’s time for birth control to be offered without a prescription.

"Not only is it medically unnecessary to require a prescription for birth control pills,” Laube wrote, “but also a doctor’s visit is costly and adds a hurdle that can delay women from getting the contraception they want and need."

He explained that because over-the-counter drugs are not usually covered by insurance it would become critical to keep cost in check.

Sources: Huffington Post, NY Times


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