Certain contraceptive pills will be available to buy over the counter in the UK for the first time, following the reclassification of some progesterone-only 'mini pills'.
From the end of July two mini pill brands - Lovima and Hana - will be available to obtain without a prescription after a consultation with a pharmacist, rather than the traditional route of via an appointment with a GP.
The pills contain desogestrel, a synthetic progesterone that inhibits ovulation and prevents fertilisation by thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the uterus lining, and can be used by people who cannot take contraception that contains oestrogen.
Combined oestrogen and progesterone pills, which still require a prescription, carry risks to women who are over 35 and smoke, or who have certain medical conditions.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency's decision to change the rules around the desogestrel pills follows a safety review by the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) and a consultation period taking in views from patients, pharmacists and doctors.
Edward Morris, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists praised the change for removing “unnecessary barriers” for women and girls accessing contraception.
He said: “Even before the pandemic, too many women and girls were struggling to access basic women’s health services. The consequences of this include an increase in the number of unplanned pregnancies, which can result in poorer outcomes for women and their babies.”
Critics of the change are calling for the removal of the attached fees. According to Maxwellia, which manufactures Lovima, a month’s supply will cost £10. HRA Pharma, which produces Hana, said it would cost £9.95 for one month and £21.95 for three, working out at just under £7.50 a month.
Asha Kasliwal, the president of Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said she fully supported the reclassification of progesterone-only pills as a pharmacy medicine but said the pills should be free.
“The fragmented sexual and reproductive healthcare system is notoriously difficult for women to navigate, and successive cuts to public health budgets have made it harder for women to get the contraception they need. Reclassification may also reduce unnecessary pressures on GPs, who will not need to see patients for repeat prescriptions," she said, via The Guardian.
“However, reclassification of some brands is only the first step, and buying contraception should definitely not be the only solution. We are calling for these pills to be available to everyone for free in community pharmacies, as well as the reclassification of other contraceptives.”
For more information on contraception in the UK, visit the NHS website.
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