I don't really remember how old I was when I first started taking oral contraceptives — probably in my late teens — but I do recall how irritated I was to have to remember to renew and refill my prescription, and go pick it up from the pharmacy every single month. Though longer-lasting birth control options like a NuvaRng or IUD make things a bit easier, every woman's body and situation is different, and many women still rely on the less-convenient (though still effective) oral contraceptives for their primary form of birth control. I'm sure I'm not the only woman who's wished that there was a faster, easier way to get birth control each month.
Enter: The Pill Club, an online pharmacy made up of a team of RNs and MDs that can prescribe, dispense, and deliver birth control to women. Founded by Nick Chang — a former medical student at Duke and the previous co-founder of a family planning startup — The Pill Club aims to provide low-cost, convenient access to birth control to women across the U.S..
Chang tells Bustle that he saw the hurdles his patients faced in getting access to birth control prescriptions and medications, and was shocked that 90 percent of his patients still had to go to the local retail pharmacy every month for birth control when people were getting things like razors easily delivered. So why couldn't the same be done with birth control? "[There are] many barriers in place for women who are seeking birth control," Chang says. "If TPC can help reduce those barriers, that's a step towards empowering individuals to use their agency to make informed decisions about their health, their bodies, their present, and their future."
With The Pill Club (which hopes to reach all 50 states within the next year), women can cut out the middle man, and get their birth control conveniently delivered right to their door. And this innovative service couldn't come at a more opportune time — with Trump as the president elect, there's a lot of uncertainty about the future of women's health right now. We don't yet know what access to birth control under a Trump administration will look like, but it's safe to say that women are more than a little worried that they'll soon face even more barriers when it comes to getting cheap, safe birth control.
For women who are tired of driving to the pharmacy all the damn time, here's everything you need to know about this revolutionary and convenient new way to get your birth control.
Here's How It Works
During the sign-up process on The Pill Club's website, you're asked to provide information about things like your allergies, your existing prescription (if you have one), and your insurance. If you have a prescription, you need your doctor to fax it to TPC or e-prescribe to The Pill Club. Then, once it's filled, a member of the pharmacy team will reach out via text for updates and for delivery dates.
And If You Don't Already Have A Prescription...
Right now, a prescribing feature is being beta-tested in California, meaning women without an existing prescription or a doctor can actually get a prescription through TPC, no IRL doctor visit required. Unfortunately, this feature has not yet been launched nationwide, so if you live outside of California, you'll need an existing prescription to use TPC.
The Forms Of Birth Control TPC Offers
"We are only able to provide pills, rings, patches, and emergency contraception," Chang says. "Because we deliver all our medications, we cannot provide emergency contraception quickly. The fastest we can provide would be 2-3 days. Therefore, we do recommend anyone who wants emergency contraception to keep just in case to request via text!" In addition to contraception, TPC offers samples — such as lube from Good Clean Love or organic tampon samples from Kali Boxes — that can be delivered with your order.
About That Insurance...
"We take insurance, including MediCal and Family PACT," Chang says. "Usually, with insurance, the copay is $0. Delivery is free; therefore, most of our patients get their birth control delivered for free! For those without insurance, we can provide a non-insurance price for the birth control on the prescription as well as the lowest cost equivalent (same drug, different manufacturer)."
As for medical providers, because TPC is a pharmacy, not a telemed company (who often require patients to use their own providers), Chang says they are happy to work with outside pharmacists and medical providers "to ensure comprehensive care for collective patients."
Regulations and policies — which may affect age of consent and insurance coverage, for example — differ from state to state, Chang says.
The Benefits Of TPC
First and foremost, it's a time-saver: If you don't have to go to the pharmacy each month, that's one less errand on your to-do list. Also, because The Pill Club focuses only on birth control, they have more stock to choose from — there are more than 80 brands of birth control to choose from, according to Chang. It's also a less stressful option, because you don't have to deal with middlemen like your insurance company or retail pharmacy location.
"If you do not have reliable access to a phone (that can text) and to a secure mailing address, it would be best to stick with a local pharmacy," Chang says. "[Or] if you have numerous medications to manage, it may be best to have them all in one place."
Why TPC Is Important For Women
"[The] common perspective is that birth control is only used for preventing pregnancy," Chang says. "Not only is this false (birth control is used for a variety of reasons outside of preventing pregnancy), but there is nothing wrong with wanting to have sex and not [get] pregnant. [There's a] stigma around female pleasure, women and promiscuity, [and] the expectation of motherhood from women." Because of this stigma, it may be unsafe or embarrassing for some women to physically pick up their birth control. In those cases, TPC hopes to provide women a more discreet way to manage their sexual health.
Even if The Pill Club isn't a service you personally would use, it's worth acknowledging what a cool step forward this is for women's sexual health. It's crucial that we give women widespread access to things like birth control and emergency contraception, so that no matter where you live, you can take control of your health and make decisions about your body that are right for you.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Courtesy of The Pill Club (4); Laken Howard/Bustle (2); Andrew Zaeh for Bustle