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JAMA Internal Medicine Highlights Benefits of 12-Month Dispensing of Oral Contraceptives for Women Veterans

March 27, 2020


Takeaway: Substantial savings for VA were found with 12-month dispensing of contraceptive pills, while also reducing unintended pregnancies among women Veterans. This study received significant media attention.

USA Today, Good Morning America, Reuters, and INSIDER have all highlighted findings from a study that shows significant savings for VA with 12-month dispensing for oral contraceptive pills, while reducing unintended pregnancies among women Veterans. Like most US health plans, VA currently stipulates a 3-month maximum dispensing limit for all medications, including oral contraceptive pills (OCPs). However, 12-month OCP dispensing has been shown to improve continuation, decrease coverage gaps, and reduce unintended pregnancy in other practice settings. Sonya Borrero, MD, MS, part of HSR&D’s Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP), and colleagues sought to determine the expected financial and reproductive health implications for the VA healthcare system in implementing a 12-month dispensing option for oral contraceptive pills. This study included 24,309 women Veterans and showed that:

  • The 12-month dispensing option resulted in anticipated VA cost savings of $87.12/woman/year compared to 3-month dispensing, or an estimated $2,117,800 saved annually.
  • Cost savings resulted from an absolute reduction of 24 unintended pregnancies/1,000 women/year with 12-month dispensing, or 583 unintended pregnancies averted annually.

"VA is the largest integrated healthcare system in the US," said Dr. Borrero. "Pushing forward with policy like this could elevate the national standard of care for women’s health.” Dr. Borrero and colleagues also highlighted financial gains as a secondary benefit to improving contraceptive access and facilitating women Veterans’ individual abilities to manage their reproductive lives as they see fit.

Judge-Golden C, Smith K, Mor M, and Borrero S. Financial implication to the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System of allowing for 12-Month dispensing of oral contraceptive pills. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2019;179(9):1201-1208.


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