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Updated Dec. 19, 2019: While internal condoms continue to be available by prescription only, the FDA in 2018 made some changes to how this HIV prevention tool is classified. Read more here.
Updated April 12, 2018: Veru Inc. has purchased the Female Health Company, which manufactures the FC2 Female Condom, the only internal condom available for sale and use in the U.S. Veru has changed how FC2s are distributed, and this product is no longer available on the shelves of pharmacies. The manufacturer has listed several ways customers can access this product. The company is still working with organizations to make FC2s available in local communities.
With the decision to carry the newest version of female condoms in 400 of its stores, Walgreens has become the first—and only—pharmacy chain to stock female condoms nationwide.
"This is a huge move forward in really raising the visibility of the product," said Jessica Terlikowski, co-founder and co-chair of the Chicago Female Condom Campaign. "I think it's really going to help with increasing acceptability and access."
The second generation of female condom, or FC2, is thinner and softer than its predecessor, which was created almost 20 years ago. FC2 manufacturers use a production process similar to the one used for male condoms, which creates a seamless, hypoallergenic product that allows for greater sensation.
"This is such an important tool for women and for men, for any receptive partner," Terlikowski said. "It enables them to initiate protection on their own, to make sure that they're able to take an important first step in reducing their risk of STIs and HIV." Terlikowski stressed that while the name might suggest otherwise, many people will find female condoms beneficial, as they can be used for both vaginal and anal sex.
A pack of three FC2 condoms retails between $5.99 and $7.99, which is about a third of the price of original female condoms. "The price point on the original was a bit high compared to what a male condom costs," said Glen Pietrandoni, manager of HIV and hepatitis programs at Walgreens. "But now this new product, the FC2, is more in line with what a male condom costs."
Activists hope the drastic price change will increase female condom usage and make it easier for healthcare professionals to stock the product. Terlikowski, who educates service providers throughout Chicago about the FC2, said she often piques people's interest and then can't direct them to an accessible product in a local store. Walgreens' decision will change that, she said.
Walgreens has almost 7,700 stores nationwide, and it's selling the FC2 in 400 of them—only about 5 percent. Pietrandoni said the decision is strategic. Not every community has a demand for female condoms, he said; those that do will stock FC2s. If demand changes over time, product distribution will, as well.
Although CVS stores in Washington D.C. currently stock the FC2, the chain does not carry them nationwide. Also, no other national pharmacy sells female condoms at a large scale.
"I'm hoping that by having Walgreens [carry the FC2] their leadership is going to inspire and encourage other corporate pharmacies to also step up to make a priority of increasing access," Terlikowski said. "We'll see female condoms being made available at more commercial outlets around the country."
Categorized under Advocacy.