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Oral contraceptive pill to become available without prescription in UK

progestogen-only pills

By Nicola Merrifield

08 Jul 2021

The UK medicine regulator has approved two progestogen-only pills for sale without a prescription from pharmacies.

Following a Government consultation earlier this year, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has reclassified Hana and Lovima tablets – both desogestrel (DSG) 75 microgram progestogen-only pills – so they can be provided over the counter.

The MHRA’s decision to reclassify the contraceptive DSG pills follows both a safety review by the MHRA’s Commission on Human Medicines committee and a public consultation.

The Government’s public consultation, launched on 12 February, proposed allowing pharmacists to issue a three-month supply of 75mcg Lovima or Hana tablets pills at initial consultation.

They would provide 12 months’ worth at repeat supply, but women under the age of 18 would be limited to three months, the document said.

Following the MHRA decision, the two pills will be available to buy following consultation with a pharmacist – though DSG tablets will still be available free of charge from a doctor, from commissioned services and sexual health clinics.

Announcing the reclassification today, the MHRA said it was ‘good news for women and families’.

Dr June Raine CBE, MHRA chief executive, said: ‘Pharmacists have the expertise to advise women on whether desogestrel is an appropriate and safe oral contraceptive pill for them to use and to give women the information they need, to make informed choices.

‘We have consulted a wide range of people to enable us to reach the decision to make this contraceptive available for the first time in the UK without prescription. We received many responses to our consultation, the majority of which supported this approach.’

She added: ‘We will continue to listen to and engage with patients to improve access to a wide range of medicinal products when it is safe to do so.’

The director of pharmacy at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), Robbie Turner, said: ‘The RPS welcomes the MHRA’s decision to enable progestogen-only contraceptive pills to be made available directly to women by pharmacists without a prescription.

‘This move will increase access to a safe and effective method of contraception and enable women to make an informed choice about their needs after discussion with a pharmacist.’

He added: ‘Whilst this reclassification is a positive move, there will be an affordability issue for some women. Ultimately we’d like to see contraception provided for free through NHS community pharmacy services across GB so that many more people can benefit from another point of access to contraception and advice.’

A version of this story was originally published on our sister title, Pulse.


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