HomeNEWSMedsafe to allow over the counter contraceptive pills

Medsafe to allow over the counter contraceptive pills

Women will now be able to get pills directly from pharmacies as Medsafe is changing the classification of some oral contraceptives from prescription to restricted medicines.

New Zealand women now have the option to buy contraceptive pills over the counter, after a year of negotiations at the Medicines Classification Committee.

If there were no objections to the recommendations before February 9, the change would mean pharmacists could dispense birth control pills to women who had received a doctor’s prescription anytime within the last three years. 

The changes follow years of negotiations at the committee over proposals by Green Cross Health, which has the Life Pharmacy and Unichem brands.

There are five types of contraceptives covered by the changed that will remain ‘prescription’ and require a doctor’s note to be able to sell over the counter.

Women with risk factors that required medical supervision would not be eligible. Those under 16, or taking the pill for the first time, will also not be able to buy the pill over the counter.

Medsafe group manager Chris James said women would be encouraged to let pharmacists notify their GP if they were getting the contraceptive at a pharmacy.

“The committee was satisfied that pharmacists could supply oral contraceptives to women who meet the specified criteria with the same levels of safety as other healthcare professionals.”

Alison Van Wyk, head of professional services for Green Cross, said to One News that this is a ground breaking initiative. 

“This allows New Zealand women convenient access to oral contraceptives through their pharmacist.”

Van Wyk says pharmacists were the key providers of primary care in their communities.

“As trained health professionals, they are well equipped to consult with women about their contraception needs and provide an accessible option for women to obtain oral contraceptives.”

The cost estimated for a three-month supply from a pharmacy would be around $45, so isn’t necessarily cheaper than visiting your general practitioner.

The Government’s pharmaceuticals fee is $5 for each subsidised medication. The average cost of a GP visit is around $45-$60. So even though the cost for the medication is hiked up, the savings occur with women not having to pay to see a GP every time they need a repeat prescription.

The over the counter pill is requested to be used for women who had run out and needed a small amount to hold them over before their next doctor’s visit, or while travelling.

Between 140,00 and 200,00 women in New Zealand take oral contraceptives, and since their introduction have only been available through a GP or family planning clique.

The New Rules:

  • Pharmacists can sell up to six months’ supply of selected oral contraceptives on repeat prescriptions when they have been previously prescribed by a medical practitioner in the last three years
  • Customers must be ages 16-39 for the combined oral pill, or 16-59 for the progesterone-only pill
  • Pharmacist’s must undertake special training
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Courtney Devereux is a Communication Consultant at Clear Hayes and freelance business writer.