The world of birth control is one that can prove incredibly vexing. With a number of options out there, choosing the right fit for your body and health is a journey that can take months – even years – to narrow down. When it comes to the contraceptive pill, navigating the hit and misses of contraception often involve numerous trips to the doctors and a discerning eye for symptoms and side-effects. But when you’ve finally found the contraceptive pill that works best for you, simply having to schedule a doctor’s appointment every time you need a script can be a huge pain. It’s why news that health regulators are looking to potentially make the contraceptive pill available over the counter is so exciting, given the freedom it would unlock for countless Australian women.
The news comes as the Therapeutic Goods Administration has decided to review whether Australian women should be able to access birth control pills without a doctor’s prescription. If successful, the country’s medicine regulator would grant trained pharmacists in Australia the ability to dispense the oral contraceptive. The only catch would be that patients would have to have taken the Pill before – those who haven’t should seek medical advice first and organise a consultation with their doctor. The aim is simply to eliminate the need for women to visit their doctor purely to renew their prescription. The application aims to “increase patient access, to reduce avoidable treatment interruptions and unplanned pregnancies – which are a significant public health issue,” according to the statement.
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As a result, two applications have been made to seek reclassification of the drugs. One would see patients who have previously been prescribed contraceptives containing the active ingredients norethisterone, levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol able to access the pills directly through pharmacists, provided they’ve had the prescription within the previous two years.
The second application aims to reclassify 10 other ingredients commonly used in contraceptives so as to allow pharmacists the ability to dispense them. In this instance though, the conditions would be more strict and patients would need to prove they had an initial prescription from a doctor and had been using the products for at least 12 months.
In the application, health regulators explained: “The requirement for health patients to physically visit their general practitioner for the sole purpose of obtaining a prescription, for an oral contraceptive they have taken safely for at least 12 months, creates unnecessary barriers to care and access to medicines.”
As it states, “Pharmacists are highly educated and trained health professionals, committed to continuing professional development, with the competency to safely supply oral contraceptives to patients for continuation therapy.”
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