Ryan Chartrand

As if taking birth control didn’t come with enough side effects, here’s a new one: empty wallet syndrome.

Since January 2007, the prices of prescription contraceptives at health centers across the nation have increased, sometimes tripling in cost, according to Cal Poly Health Services Director Martin Bragg.

Thanks to a few lines of legal jargon in the Federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, students no longer benefit from pharmaceutical contracts with college health centers that used to provide low-cost prescriptions.

According to Bragg, this was most likely an oversight by lawmakers.

“Any action of that magnitude has unintended consequences,” he said.

Even so, students will have to pay the price.

“It seems like college students, who have limited means, are going to be most affected by the cost,” said general engineering freshman Melissa Lund. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

According to Bragg, many women start using prescription contraceptives in college and tend to stick with the brand that works for them. Therefore, he said, the contracts actually benefited pharmaceutical companies.

While he has not yet heard of a student ceasing use of her birth control altogether because of the price hike, he is still working to make the Cal Poly Health Center a Family Planning, Access, Care and Treatment (Family PACT) provider. Family PACT is a state program that offers free and low-cost family planning services to men and women, including birth control and counseling.

Bragg explained that students would have to meet several requirements to be eligible for the program, such as earning an annual income lower than $19,000, having no insurance or needing to keep family planning services private from the policy holder.

“I think a significant proportion of our students would qualify,” said Bragg, who is trying to make the program available to students by the summer.

“By and large, we have very good prices on most of our pharmaceuticals – including birth control,” he added. “Even though (prices have) gone up, they’re still good compared to what most pharmacies are charging.”

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