Ortho-McUpdate

Birth control manufacturer retracts huge price hike; publicly funded clinics exit panic mode.


Lynn Harris
August 30, 2006 11:37PM (UTC)

Broadsheet recently reported that Ortho-McNeil had drastically increased the price it charges to publicly funded health clinics for certain birth control pills (from pennies to more than $18 for a month's supply). As these clinics are already nickel-and-dimed by Title X, the federal family-planning program, this news pretty much sent them to DEFCON 1, forcing them to float emergency plans -- limiting hours of operation, say, or even closing some locations -- to absorb the additional cost.

But now, according to yesterday's Slate, we may get to pretend as if that never happened. "Ortho has changed its mind," reports Amanda Schaffer. "The company says it will roll back the price hike because of 'additional information provided to us from numerous public health service agencies indicating that [Ortho] has been relied upon as the primary source for subsidizing contraceptives to underprivileged women.' It's not clear what that new information is, but whatever."

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It's also not quite clear if the new new price will be quite the same as the old price -- as low as pennies per pack -- but it looks as if we can count on it to be much less than $18. Meanwhile, in the bigger picture: The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association "plans to reach out more aggressively to the manufacturers of generic birth-control pills, in hopes of negotiating for comparably low prices and providing more choices for poor women. That would ease the clinics' dependence on Ortho -- a good idea in the long run. For the moment, though, it's sigh-of-relief time."


Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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