YUHS birth control prices will increase

Yale students will face higher prices for birth control in coming months following a change in federal law.

The price for oral contraceptives at Yale and other college health centers rose at the end of last year due to of the elimination of incentives for drug companies to sell birth control to universities at a reduced rate, according to Yale University Health Service officials. The price for birth control varies from brand to brand, but can now cost up to $45 a pack, Yale University Health Services Medical Director Michael Rigsby said.

The price of the pill at University Health Services will increase as universities will no longer receive a reduced price for buying the drug in bulk.
Adam Trettel
The price of the pill at University Health Services will increase as universities will no longer receive a reduced price for buying the drug in bulk.

Mark Theriault, coordinator of Clinical Pharmacy Services at Yale, said that previously, pharmaceutical companies sold the birth control to college clinics at discounted rates in exchange for a number of financial incentives. But after the Deficit Reduction Bill of 2005 passed, he said, companies are no longer willing to offer discounts.

“Other retailers never had the contract pricing we were able to get as a college clinic,” Theriault said. “We were getting extremely good prices before so it seems expensive now.”

The higher prices are a result of many factors, including new product development and market forces, Rigsby said.

At other colleges, such as Indiana University, Arizona State University and University of Wisconsin, Madison, officials said the price of birth control has risen from about $15 to $40. Officials at the health centers said that they are working to try to keep the cost down, but that they worry that the price hike will push students to less effective contraception methods.

Because of advance bulk purchasing, the perceived effect of the price increase on students at Yale has been minimal and gradual so far, Rigsby said. But he said Yale will only be able to mitigate the cost increase for three to four months before students will experience the full effect.

“We will continue to try to keep prices as low as possible and will be proactive in communicating upcoming changes to our membership,” Rigsby said. “Achieving that goal, though, may require more than one approach.”

Rigsby said UHS is working with students to find more affordable birth control options for students unable to afford the higher prices of their old medications.

Students who find it difficult to cover the new cost of birth control have alternatives to oral contraceptives, such as the birth control patch, the intervaginal ring, condoms and abstinence, Theriault said. Students may also choose to switch to generic birth control pills, he said, though these options may cost almost as much as the oral contraceptives offered by the school health center.

But UHS officials said they do not think the prices will deter Yale students’ use of birth control. Since there are a variety of methods available, Rigsby said, cost should only be one factor in deciding whether or not to use contraceptives.

“I haven’t seen any change in the number of students getting prescriptions,” Theriault said.

A number of students agreed that the rise in prices, while aggravating, would not decrease the use of effective contraception at Yale.

“It’s like the rise in gas prices,” Cassie Rodriguez ’08 said. “We still need it, we still use it, no matter how expensive it is.”

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