Contraceptive pill to be available without prescription

A Blenheim pharmacist says he regularly fields requests from overseas visitors who expect the contraceptive pill to be available without a prescription. 

The nation’s biggest pharmacy chain, Green Cross Health, has asked health officials to reconsider the requirement for a prescription for oral contraceptives.

At the moment only the morning-after pill is available across the counter without a doctor’s prescription. Next month a Medsafe committee will consider a proposal from Green Cross Health and consultancy Pharma Projects to change that.

Brian Powell, a pharmacist at Blenheim’s John Poswillo Pharmacy, said during the harvest season between two and three people would come to the pharmacist each month asking for the contraceptive pill without a doctor’s prescription. 

“There’s a lot of people who come through here from overseas and are used to buying contraceptives over the counter.” 

If contraception did become available over the counter at pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription, it was important that there was good communication between doctors and pharmacists, Powell said.

“The GPs – they hold all the health information. If you start taking bits and pieces of that health system away, the GP doesn’t have that complete picture of that women’s health.” 

Women might miss out on some of the preventative health messages they got through visiting a nurse or doctor if the change went through, Powell said, such as checking whether a woman was up-to-date with her cervical smears or if she had had a HPV vaccine. 

Family Planning national medical adviser Dr Christine Roke said she didn’t think making the contraceptive pill available over the counter at pharmacies would reduce the rate of unplanned pregnancies.

Two of the biggest barriers to getting the contraceptive pill were affordability and living a long distance from where the pill was available. 

“This doesn’t have much potential to address that. There’s nothing wrong with the proposal but it’s unlikely to reach that group.”

Making the pill available over the pharmacy counter would help people who were already able to afford and organise contraception, Roke said.

“It’s just a different way of doing it.” 

If the plan did go ahead, pharmacists needed to have proper training, Roke said.

“Whoever’s providing the contraception needs to assess the person and make sure they’re not one of the few people who shouldn’t be using the contraceptive pill and that they’re using the pill correctly.” 

 - Stuff

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Contraceptive pill to be available without prescription
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