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Women's Health: Women benefit from a bigger supply of birth control pills

Study shows a longer prescription leads to fewer missed pills and better health care

Women who get a 13-month advance supply of oral contraceptives are more likely to stick with the regimen than those who need to renew their prescription monthly or quarterly, a recent study shows.

Diana Foster of the University of California at San Francisco studied more than 82,000 women who received oral contraceptives free of charge in January 2003. The majority of women (63 per cent) received a three-month supply of pills, while 16 per cent received a single cycle of pills and seven per cent received a 13-cycle supply. The other 14 per cent received another quantity.

Women who received a 13-cycle supply not only continued oral contraceptive use for a significantly longer period than those who received one-cycle or three-cycle supplies (14.5 months versus 7.5 months and nine months), they were also less likely to miss taking a scheduled pill: 16 per cent of women who received a single cycle of pills and 19 per cent of those who received three cycles experienced gaps in coverage, compared with only four per cent of women who received 13 cycles.

Despite having an average of one fewer clinic visit per year, women who received 13 cycles of pills were more likely to get annual Pap and chlamydia tests (74 per cent) than women who received one or three cycles (57 per cent).

However, women who were dispensed a 13-cycle supply tended to waste more pills due to changing brands or switching birth control methods than those who were dispensed fewer pills: An average of 6.5 per cent of pills were wasted by women in the 13-cycle group compared with 2.4 per cent in the one-cycle group and two per cent in the three-cycle group.