Pharmacists call for scheme to improve access to contraception
- The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) proposes a scheme to allow women access contraception directly from their community pharmacist without prescription and without charge
11 April 2018: The IPU has welcomed Minister for Health Simon Harris’ proposal to introduce a free contraceptive scheme, and has provided a submission outlining the important role pharmacists can play in improving women’s access to contraception.
The IPU proposes that the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive put in place a scheme to enable women to access contraception directly from their community pharmacist without prescription and without charge, regardless of eligibility.
On 9 March 2018, Minister Harris announced in the Dáil a proposal to introduce a free contraceptive service, saying he would “seek approval for a series of measures to further support women and improve access to counselling, contraception and perinatal care”.
Pharmacists have directly provided emergency contraception without the need for a prescription since 2011, and most women now obtain emergency contraception from pharmacies rather than from GPs. This reinforces findings from a 2010 HSE study on contraception and crisis pregnancy, which found that convenience and accessibility are important for contraception supply. The same study showed that nearly half of the women surveyed (47%) reported that they would prefer to get their contraception from a pharmacy.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health has already made contraception available without prescription from pharmacists, and legislation is also in place in many US states to do likewise, with the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Family Physicians both saying it is safe and appropriate to do so.
IPU President Daragh Connolly says “access to birth control is a major public health issue because of the risk of unwanted pregnancies. By making birth control easier and more convenient to obtain, more women will use it, which should result in reduced rates of unintended pregnancy. There are no clinical reasons why oral contraceptives should still require a prescription. The oral contraceptive is one of the safest and most well studied medicines available.”
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