Europe

Two contraceptive pills now sold over counter without prescription

People will be able to get some types of daily contraceptive pills in pharmacies without a prescription for the first time.

Campaigners have been pushing for easier access to contraception for years.

Now, in what some have declared a ‘huge win for women and girls’, two brands of contraceptive pills will be available over the counter. 

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has concluded it is safe to offer Lovima and Hana, 75 microgram progesterone-only contraceptives, without a GP appointment. 

But those who use it will still have to consult with a pharmacist before being given it.

Combined oestrogen and progesterone pills will still need a traditional prescription.

Pharmacists will be able to give the pill to women of child-bearing age, including teenagers who meet a certain criteria.

This ‘milestone’ has been praised by numerous professionals including the chief executive of consumer healthcare Association PAGB, Michelle Riddalls. 

She said: ‘We warmly welcome this decision by the MHRA. Making these progestogen-only contraceptive pills available without prescription in the UK is a historic milestone for women and women’s health.

‘This is the first time that any form of daily contraceptive pill has been licensed for over-the-counter sale in the UK, 60 years after the pill was originally offered by the NHS – initially to married women only.’ 

The pandemic has had a ‘devastating’ impact on women’s sexual and reproductive health, medical journal The Lancet says, with this making it unnecessarily difficult to get contraception. 

With limited access to Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) clinics and other health services during lockdown, some had no choice but to go private and pay for their reproductive rights. 

President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), Dr Edward Morris, said: ‘We are delighted that all those who need the progestogen-only oral contraceptive pill (POP) can now go into their local pharmacy and access it without needing a prescription.

‘This announcement is a huge win for women and girls who will no longer face unnecessary barriers when accessing this type of contraception.’ 

Whilst combination pills are generally safe, they have more health risks than single-hormone pills. 

The MHRA’s chief executive Dr June Raine CBE: ‘Pharmacists have the expertise to advise women on whether desogestrel is an appropriate and safe oral contraceptive pill for them to use and to give women the information they need, to make informed choices.

‘We have consulted a wide range of people to enable us to reach the decision to make this contraceptive available for the first time in the UK without prescription.

‘We received many responses to our consultation, the majority of which supported this approach.’

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