Birth Control law misses the UI


UI students likely won’t see much of a difference in cost for birth control on campus, despite a bill recently signed by President Obama that would allow pharmaceutical companies to consider selling discounted contraceptives.

Obama signed a $410 billion spending bill with the provision on March 11 — the same day the Senate passed it.

“I think, overall, it’s a great thing for most colleges,” UI Student Health gynecologist Ann Laros said. “Right now, I don’t think it will make a huge impact on the University of Iowa.”

Though officials haven’t yet seen great changes in the cost of brand names — the only type included in the provision — they won’t know whether students will see lower prices until drug companies decide what to discount.

If one of the medications listed in the provision is discounted by a drug company, then the UI pharmacy — which provides the drugs to Student Health — would be able to offer a lower price.

Approximately 40 percent of women in college take birth-control pills, according to the American College Health Association.

One reason Laros thinks women students at the UI will be insulated from the changes stems from the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which blocked discounted oral contraceptives to university student health centers. This didn’t affect the UI as much as other colleges, she said.

The size of the UI and that it has an on-campus pharmacy has also helped keep local prices steady and reasonable, Laros said. By teaming with the university pharmacy, officials can work together.

Also, UI Student Health Director David Braun said, officials work with students to find the most cost-effective medications, which are usually generic. Under the provision, these off-brands aren’t eligible for discounts.

“We work with students to find out what the most cost-effective medication is,” he said.

The new proposal focuses on only making some name-brand contraceptives more affordable, said Theresa Hobbs, a Student Health pharmacist. She knew of only three name-brand oral contraceptives listed in the law that are offered on campus, she said.

The possibility of new discounted contraceptives could combat a rise in unintended pregnancies, said Jill Vibhakar, a UI clinical associate professor of obstetrics. Teen pregnancy numbers rose in more than 24 states over the last year, she said.

“[The bill] could be a move in the right direction to decrease that rate,” she said.

Laros said UI health officials will discuss the new law on April 2.

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