Number of oral contraceptive pill packages dispensed, method continuation, and costs

Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Nov;108(5):1107-14. doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000239122.98508.39.


Objective: To estimate the effect of the number of cycles of oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) dispensed per visit on method continuation, pill wastage, use of services, and health care costs.

Methods: We used paid claims data for 82,319 women dispensed OCPs through the California Family PACT (Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment) Program in January 2003 to examine contraceptive continuation and service use.

Results: Women who received 13 cycles at their first visit in January 2003 received 14.5 cycles over the course of 2003 compared with 9.0 cycles among women receiving three cycles at first visit. When client characteristics are controlled, women who received 13 cycles were 28% more likely to have OCPs on hand and twice as likely to have sufficient OCP cycles for 15 months of continuous use compared with women who received three cycles. Oral contraceptive pill wastage was higher among women initially dispensed 13 cycles (6.5% of the cycles dispensed) than among women who received three cycles (2% of cycles). Despite having one fewer clinician visit, women dispensed 13 cycles were more likely to receive Pap and Chlamydia tests and less likely to have a pregnancy test than women initially dispensed fewer cycles. Over the course of the year, Family PACT paid 99 US dollars more for women who received three cycles and 44 US dollars more for women who received only one cycle than it did for women who received 13 cycles at their first visits of 2003.

Conclusion: Dispensing a year's supply of OCP cycles to women is associated with higher method continuation and lower costs than dispensing fewer cycles per visit.

Level of evidence: II-2.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contraceptives, Oral / administration & dosage*
  • Contraceptives, Oral / economics
  • Drug Prescriptions / economics
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health, Reimbursement / statistics & numerical data*
  • Logistic Models
  • Pregnancy Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Vaginal Smears / statistics & numerical data


  • Contraceptives, Oral