Female Condoms, Used by Women and Men for HIV Prevention, Will Now Be Prescription Only
June 9, 2017
Attention shoppers: The female condom, sold under the name F2C, will no longer be available in pharmacy aisles. Veru Health, the company that makes the product, is moving to a prescription distribution model. The company is hoping to take advantage of the birth control benefits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and increase use of the method by getting providers involved in the process. Advocates, however, note that this move comes with a hefty price increase that could leave the uninsured with no access to the condom.
F2C, sometimes called an internal condom, is a barrier method that was originally designed to be inserted into the vagina. But, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only approved the use of female condoms for vaginal sex, people also use them during anal sex to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV. F2C provides protection against pregnancy as well as STIs by preventing the exchange of bodily fluids (including semen) and blocking some skin-to-skin contact.
The female condom is not very popular in the U.S. There is little data on the use of this method as STI protection, and National Health Statistics Reports shows that a very small percentage (less than 0.3%) of women using contraception rely on it as their primary method of birth control.
Those people who do use the method could, until now, purchase it the same way one would purchase a box of male condoms: It was available on store shelves for approximately $3.50 a condom. That’s significantly more expensive than the male condom, but it still meant that you could walk out with a three-pack for under $10.
The problem, according to Brian Groch, Veru’s chief commercial officer, was that nobody did. He told TheBody.com that the product just didn’t sell in retail. He offered an example of one large retail chain that reported selling less than $12 worth of F2C in the last two years despite having it in numerous stores. Most people who use the product, according to Groch, get it from public health organizations such as STI clinics and health departments who can buy it at a deep discount. Groch says that continuing to invest in a retail sales model was simply unsustainable for the company given the poor sales.