EHC to be available to medical card holders directly from community pharmacy

5 May 2017: The IPU has described as “very welcome” this morning’s announcement by Minister for Health Simon Harris that, as of July, emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) will be available to women with medical cards directly from their community pharmacy, pointing out that this move addresses a longstanding injustice and anomaly for these women who, up to now, had to go to their GP to get a prescription if they wished to get emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) on the medical card.

Unintended pregnancy has long been acknowledged as a significant global health, social and economic problem, and crisis pregnancy is an area of grave concern, with the potential to cause great distress to those affected.

Emergency contraception is time sensitive. Its effectiveness diminishes between the time of unprotected sex and the time of taking it, emphasising both the importance of all women being able to readily access it, and thus the value of the convenience and accessibility offered by community pharmacies. The necessity to attend a GP for a prescription has always been an unnecessary barrier and has also meant that the poorest and most vulnerable women in Irish society have not been treated equitably with private patients in terms of access to EHC.

Today’s announcement by Minister Harris means that, from July, community pharmacists will be able to dispense emergency oral contraceptives directly to GMS patients without their having to go to their GP first, or to have to pay for the medicine that they would otherwise be entitled to, free of charge.

Pharmacists are looking forward to quickly implementing this move, as they have been safely dispensing emergency contraception without prescription to private patients since 2011.