Way clear for Pharmacists to dispense oral contraception

Media release

14 February 2017

A recommendation to allow selected oral contraceptives to be supplied by pharmacists, in certain circumstances, has been given the green light.

Medsafe has accepted a recommendation by the Medicine Classifications Committee (MCC) to change the classification of certain oral contraceptives from ‘prescription’ to ‘restricted’ medicines. This means they can be sold over the counter after a consultation with a pharmacist.

Medsafe Group Manager Chris James says this will mean pharmacists can sell up to six months’ supply of oral contraceptives to women who meet certain conditions.

 “To be eligible, a woman must have been prescribed a similar formulation within the last 3 years and not have developed risk factors which would preclude continued use without adequate medical supervision.

“Very young women, under 16, are not eligible nor are first time users of oral contraceptives. And women will be encouraged to allow pharmacists to notify their GP that they are getting the oral contraceptive across the pharmacy counter.”

A submission to reclassify selected oral contraceptives was first made to the MCC in 2014. Chair Dr Stewart Jessamine says the proposal has been extensively reviewed and a wide range of medical professionals and consumer representatives have been consulted.

“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.”

“The Pharmacy Council and Pharmaceutical Society will be responsible for ensuring pharmacists are appropriately trained to provide oral contraceptives without a prescription to eligible women.”

The reclassification will come into effect once it is published in the New Zealand Gazette, expected by the end of February.  

Medsafe says the availability of oral contraceptives from a pharmacy will only commence once pharmacists have been deemed appropriately trained.

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