By Christina Wolfe
Four games of Atomic Bowling at the Boardwalk Bowl, three tickets to a midnight showing at the Del Mar, a month’s supply of birth control: three things you can buy in Santa Cruz with $20.
Students here at UC Santa Cruz now have eight different kinds of birth control available for only $15 or $20.
“We have a decent variety of low-cost options,” said Diane Lamotte, senior pharmacist at the UCSC Health Center. “It feels really good.”
All these varying and affordable birth control options have something in common: they are all generics.
Two of the generics that are normally $30 each are now $20, and four that were $30 are now $15.
According to Lamotte, students who don’t want to pay the price of the name brands can simply switch to a generic and save money.
The price of name-brand contraceptives is skyrocketing. For example, the popular brand Ortho TriCyclen Lo jumped in price from $12.50 to $50 a pack. Last year a similar price increase occurred for users of the NuvaRing, a low-dose contraceptive ring.
Lamotte explained how, in the past, the name-brand companies used to offer discounts to student health centers in the hope that once women got used to a specific brand in college they would continue to choose that brand post-graduation. But not any more; name-brand contraceptive costs just keep going up, and discounts are getting tossed.
“It does feel like women are being penalized,” Lamotte said.
When the prices increased for the Health Center, the pharmacy ordered a year and a half’s supply at the lower price to give people time to weigh their options before succumbing to sticker shock. As Lamotte said, “We milked everything we could get.” And the Health Center began to order generic variations of name-brand birth control.
For some students, the switch to generics caused some problems, even if it was more cost-effective. Fourth-year Emily Morales believes generics have “weird side effects” and said generic brands made her “more moody.” So she switched providers instead of brands and now gets her contraceptives at Planned Parenthood.
An anonymous third-year student is also uncomfortable with generics.
“[The Health Center] gave me a generic and I cried all the time,” she said. “I was super emotional.” This student later switched to a name brand and is now pleased with it. But she said if her brand goes up drastically, she would again switch to a generic contraceptive.
In contrast to Morales, this student prefers to stay with the Health Center.
“It’s a safe, good resource,” she said. “It’s super easy to get birth control. And it’s Santa Cruz, so you know they like ovaries.”