Students Rally for a Cheaper Pill

Wednesday, 14 November 2007 20:21 by: Anonymous

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UCSC Students Rally to Get Birth Control Costs Reduced    [

    Students Rally for a Cheaper Pill
    By Olivia Smith
    Washington Square News

    Tuesday 13 November 2007

    New York Congressman Joseph Crowley and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn were among the speakers at a student rally to make birth control more affordable for students in Washington Square Park yesterday.

    The rally, which attracted about 30 people, was staged in response to increases of birth control prices on college campuses. The prices have risen from $5-$10 a month to $40-$50 a month.

    Other speakers at the rally included Joan Malin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of NYC and Meena Shah of NYU Voices for Choice.

    Students from Planned Parenthood of NYC, NYU Voices for Choice and NYU Law Students for Reproductive Justice chanted slogans like "Birth control shouldn't break the bank, who in congress do we thank?" and "What do we want? Birth control! How do we want it? Cheap!"

    Sarah Betz, a freshman in the Silver School of Social Work and a NOW NYU member, said all students should be able to get affordable birth control.

    "Any woman, low-income or a college student, should be able to afford birth control and protection. If condoms cost so much less, why can't the pill?" Betz said.

    Crowley said the rise in birth control costs is the result of the Deficit Reduction Act, passed in 2005, which kept student health centers from receiving the same discounts on medication that other clinics get. To address this, Crowley introduced a bill earlier this month called the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act, which would restore this discount on birth control for college clinics and other providers. The act will help pharmaceutical companies sell birth control to college clinics and safety net care providers at a discounted rate, and will not cost taxpayers any money.

    "This is an issue about women's health and common sense. Failing to act will continue to cause a rise in the cost of birth control. It has an impact on lives," Crowley said. "Together we are going to make this mistake go away."


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    UCSC Students Rally to Get Birth Control Costs Reduced
    By I.A. Stewart
    The Santa Cruz Sentinel

    Sunday 11 November 2007

    Santa Cruz, California - Students receiving the pill and other forms of birth control from the UC Santa Cruz Student Health Center returned to school this fall to find contraceptives that once cost as little as $4 or $5 a month shot up to 10 times that amount.

    But a student organization called Students for Reproductive Justice is seeking to make a change.

    "It's not about pro-choice," said Stephanie Rado, a member of SRJ and an intern at Planned Parenthood. "Pro-choice also includes the opportunity to have contraceptives. Nobody wants abortions, but what are you doing as an alternative if you're impeding someone's access to birth control?"

    The spike in cost is the unintended result of legislation that went into effect in January as part of the federal Deficit Reduction Act. The act prevented drug companies from providing low-cost clinics and college health clinics with discounted rates on birth control. The result is that the health center on campus, as well as Planned Parenthood and other clinics that receive Medi-Cal and Medicaid compensation, are being charged higher rates for drugs they once received at nominal prices.

    Rado's organization is organizing petitions it hopes to send to Sens. Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein urging them to act to restore birth control to the lower prices. So far, the group has sent the petition to reproductive rights organizations around Santa Cruz, but it hopes to begin setting up tables to gather support on campus soon, Rado said.

    Hillary Parish, a senior at UCSC, had her prescription for Ortho Tri-Cyclen filled on campus for three years. This year, she decided to stop using the campus health center and instead fills her prescription at Longs Drugs, where the pill costs her only $5 per month.

    "It was ridiculous. I had to pay more to get it on campus," she said.

    Last year, the contraceptive cost $12.50 per month at UCSC, which Parish paid out of pocket. She then submitted her receipts to her private insurance company and was reimbursed.

    "I'm not going to go up there to pay more when I could go to Longs closer to my house and get it cheaper," Parish said.

    All students at UCSC are required to have some form of medical insurance - either through the university or privately.

    Prices for birth control drugs vary at the health center. For instance, Nuvaring, a vaginal contraceptive ring that releases a low, steady dose of hormones, cost $12.50 per month last year. This fall, the price rose to $46 per month, and the number of students using Nuvaring has dropped roughly 50 percent as a result, according to Diane Lamotte, the senior pharmacist at the UCSC health center.

    Lamotte said before the price hike, the health center was recommending Nuvaring to women who had problems taking pills.

    "Sometimes this was a really good solution, so we had a lot of people on Nuvaring ... however because the price of the ring went up, a number of students requested a new prescription to get pills," Lamotte said.

    Now the majority of patients on campus are using Apri, a generic birth control pill that is like Desogen or Ortho Tri-Cyclen, two popular brand-name drugs. The health center did not sell Apri last year, because it was receiving the brand name drugs for a lower cost than the generic. It sells for $15 per month.

    Buu Thai, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, sees the rising cost of birth control as potentially dangerous.

    "Unfortunately, it's a sad situation where individuals have to make that decision based on pricing," Thai said. "Whatever product they're already on is probably the most effective product for them. It's sad to have to make a decision based on cost, because the alternative may not be as effective, and that opens the risk of unintended pregnancy - that's my concern."

    The university health center, which is part of the system wide UC Hospital Consortium, is able to purchase some brands of birth control medication at lowered prices because it is part of a large purchasing group. However, the buying group is not primarily concerned with purchasing birth control, Lamotte said.

    "It's a hospital-type contract," Lamotte said. "The hospital contractor people are not trying to get birth control - they're trying to get injectable drugs."

    Planned Parenthood has not shifted the increased costs to its patients, according to Thai, but if prices do not come down soon, the organization may have to. Planned Parenthood provides contraceptives to many patients for free or at reduced prices, based on their income.

    "We have limited resources, and we have not passed on the cost to our patients," Thai said. "But if this continued to go longer, down the line we would have to look at how we would transfer the cost to patients."

    Both the university health center and Planned Parenthood have lobbied in favor of legislation that would reverse the effects of the Deficit Reduction Act on the cost of birth control medication. In August, President Bush vetoed expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which included language that would again allow drug companies to provide low-cost birth control to college clinics and safety net providers.

    According to Lamotte, one of the primary reasons companies like Ortho were prevented from discounting their products was that government officials were concerned that drug companies were using the discounting to promote their products to young women. The idea being that if companies could encourage college-age women to begin using a brand-name product while on their school heath insurance, they would remain loyal to the brand once out of school.

    On Nov. 1, Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., introduced the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act, designed to overturn the Deficit Reduction Act's effects on discounted drugs. The bill has more than 100 co-sponsors, both Democratic and Republican.

    The act is not yet set to go before the House, but the Crowley camp hopes to get it on the table before the end of the year.

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