Black Market Birth Control

I was reading an article on xoJane and it featured a young woman who was broke – as I’m sure many people feel right now. I’ve had friends who have mentioned changing birth control methods due to price or having to choose between groceries and paying for their birth control. However, the woman mentioned to her hair stylist that she was feeling a bit too broke to possibly afford her birth control and the stylist had the “perfect” answer – just buy her Nuva Ring from a woman’s car trunk.

At this point, I sat on my couch slack-jawed just waiting for some popular music celebrity I don’t know to jump out and yell “You’ve been punked!” Except that didn’t happen.

This woman happened to have many different brands of birth control pills and the Nuva Ring in the trunk of her car, and sold a one month supply for $15. While there is a chance that the birth control the woman is selling is the real thing (heck, check out this map to see where you can get birth control over the counter!), I’m still a little wary.

While the author, Shayla, mentions that her prescription went from $20 a month to $50, and that then she could get it for $15, I’m not sure I’m sold. Even though Shayla even got a free Nuva Ring (as a promotion presumably), I’m still not sure what is quite going on. I do appreciate that the article notes that you are supposed to keep birth control (and many other prescriptions) at “room temperature,” and she was a little unsure since, well, trunks get hot. Even on cooler days, the inside of cars can get rather hot and that temperature change can compromise birth control’s effectiveness.

Shayla’s story is likely not the only case of this happening. The Huffington Post even had an article featuring a woman who sold her left over birth control on Craig’s List (to be fair, the article states that she had it unopened, in its original packaging). I asked my registered nurse friend how someone could get an illegal trunk full of birth control pills. Apparently it’s not all that strange for one person to sell or give an old pack or two of pills to a friend, however my nurse friend is stumped (and a little nervous about) by the car trunk full of birth control as it could contain different medications, not be as effective, or even be the wrong dosage or type for the person.

Jezebel even mentioned a news story in which one of the reporters went undercover in Arizona to learn more about birth control being sold on the black market. As broke as I am, learning about he fines for selling birth control (and any other prescription drug) without a license made me cringe – we’re talking $1,000 for each item, according to the article. This article goes along with the information from my nurse friend mentioning that it may be a different medication altogether, or could be expired. Expired birth control looses its effectiveness and may also not work as well if the temperatures change (yet another reason to store your prescription medications anywhere but the bathroom – the temperatures can fluctuate enough to influence the effectiveness of many different medications, not just birth control).

I have friends who have purchased all types of prescription medications online – primarily from Canada – and my insurance now requires medications that are regularly taken to be filled through their pharmacy and mailed to you. Bedsider has a link this page from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy that lists all of the legitimate online pharmacies. There are many legitimate online pharmacies, and with any medication, it may be worth it to call around to different pharmacies to see where it will be least expensive. Some pharmacies offer 90 day supplies of many medications for $10 (keep in mind that it only is for certain medications and certain dosages), so if you’re trying to keep an eye on the price, that may be worth looking into.

However, while I am not a medical doctor, it’s risky to get any medication on the black market. If you need birth control and are in America, try Planned Parenthood, a local health clinic (typically they charge based on a sliding fee scale), or asking your doctor if they have any samples or mentioning price as an issue.

Would you buy medication out of a trunk of someone’s car? What about on the black market?

Keep yourself healthy, and keep in touch with us. Find us on Twitter @mysexprofessor and find Holly, the author of this post, @ItsHollyAgain.

About Holly Moyseenko

Holly Moyseenko is a sex educator living in Ohio. She is an advocate of positive and healthy sexuality. Holly currently works for a non-profit health organization as a health educator, and also teaches workshops that focus on many topics within the realm of healthy sexuality. In her spare time, she also is an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, gardens, reads anything within reach, drinks copious amounts of tea, and naps with her two dogs.