If you take birth control pills and are sick of visiting your doctor just to get prescription refills approved, or you’d like to start but can’t find a doctor you trust, there is a better way. These apps and websites have your back.
Oral contraceptives are safe enough that groups like the
American Association of Family Physicians and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say it should be available over the counter. In fact, you can get birth control without a doctor’s prescription in California, Washington, and Oregon, but that’s no guarantee you can find it in a pharmacy near you. Of course, it’s still a good idea to find a provider you trust and see them, in person, on a regular basis. But regular exams and checkups and your birth control prescription don’t have to be connected, and that’s where these services come in.
Before you sign up, know that online birth control prescription services are a little different from
regular telemedicine services like Teladoc. The process is only a little more involved than ordinary online shopping. The details depend on the service and on your state’s laws, but expect to fill out a questionnaire that asks for your basic medical information, as well as a few oddball requests: you may need to provide a blood pressure reading ( one from a drugstore kiosk is usually fine), and upload a photo of yourself. In some states, you may need to do a video call with the online doctor before they can fill the prescription. One of the most annoying things about being sick is leaving the house for medical care, filling out … Read more Read more (Web) serves the most states, as you’ll see on our chart below, but only offers a few brands of the pill. After your questionnaire or video visit, you just wait for your pills to show up in the mail. They do not take insurance, though. Bonus: Prjkt Ruby also offers emergency contraception. Prjkt Ruby (Web/iOS/Android) offers birth control and a few other drugs, including medications for acid reflux and for erectile dysfunction. They only provide the prescription, for a $15 visit fee, and then you pick up the pills at your local pharmacy, using your insurance as usual. Lemonaid (Web) fills prescriptions by mail, and takes insurance, making it the cheapest option on this list. (Remember, contraception is Nurx free under almost all insurance plans). If you’d like a preview of the questionnaire, read about this woman’s experience—she found it very straightforward. (Web) offers online visits for $45, but they take insurance, so your total may be less. Virtuwell sends the prescription to your local pharmacy. Virtuwell (Web/iOS/Android) offers video visits, and mails the medication to you.. Planned Parenthood Care Planned Parenthood Direct (iOS/Android) charges a $15 visit fee and you pick up the prescription from your local pharmacy.
These services take a doctor visit off your to-do list, but since not all of them include a pharmacy, you may still have to leave your house and interact with a pharmacist. Since judgey pharmacists may be the reason you’d rather do this all online, your problem is only halfway solved.
Once you have a prescription, though, you can use an online pharmacy like
PillPack to receive medications by mail. Verify before you start that your prescribing service, your pharmacy, and your insurance all play nice together, and you may be able to get your pills without ever having to see an unfriendly face.
Some of these services may be extra cautious about who they prescribe to. For example, they may set a minimum age to use the service. Definitely read your chosen service’s policies, and set aside some extra time when you fill out the questionnaire, just in case it ends up that the service can’t help you and you have to try another.
Each state has their own laws about when and whether it’s okay for a provider to write a prescription without meeting you in person. Only Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina don’t allow online prescriptions at all, as of December 2016. If you’re in one of those states, you’ll need to meet your doctor in person, but then you should be able to get the prescription filled by mail.
Because states’ laws are so different, and because the providers who do the prescribing behind the scenes need to be licensed in the customer’s state, companies have to choose which states they want to operate in, and make sure they jump through all the appropriate hoops. Check out our chart of which services are available in which state:
If you live in California, you’re in luck—plenty of prescription services operate there, including
Pandia and Pill Club in addition to the ones on our chart. Other states don’t give you as much choice, but 47 out of 50 have Prjkt Ruby if nothing else. That means that for most of the country, your next birth control refill is only a few clicks away.
Illustration by Angelica Alzona.