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The contraceptive pill will not be available over the counter in Australia, here’s what you need to know

WORDS BY KATE STREADER

It will remain accessible in Australia with a current script only.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has reached a final decision to class the contraceptive pill as a prescription-only medication. The potential risks associated with the pill led the TGA to rule it should only be prescribed by a doctor following a clinical assessment. 

With potential side effects including blood clots and an increased risk of developing cervical and breast cancer, both the TGA and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) have said pharmacists should not be in a position to make decisions around who takes these medications. 


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The final decision was reached after the TGA considered two applications against the ruling, which would allow pharmacists to sell the pill without a prescription if the customer had proof they had been prescribed the same pill within the last two years. 

The applications also proposed the option for pharmacists to facilitate a consultation with those seeking the pill to determine whether it was the right contraceptive choice for them.

The decision reflects the pre-existing rules in Australia and the TGA’s interim decision reached in September, which state a current script is required to access the contraceptive pill.

While the AMA has backed the decision, agreeing that retail chemists aren’t an adequate setting for assessing reproductive health, the Pharmacy Guild fears the rules create barriers for women trying to access birth control. 

“It’s merely improving convenience for women to the same level as men, who can pop down to the supermarket and take care of their contraceptive needs very easily, whereas women have to jump through all these hoops,” Natalie Willis from the Pharmacy Guild told The ABC after the interim decision was reached. 

The Pharmacy Guild has also deemed the ruling as patronising to both those seeking the pill and pharmacists.

The AMA disagrees, arguing the decision isn’t about the ability of pharmacists and women to make decisions around their reproductive health, but that the risks outweigh the benefits of regular check-ins with a GP. 

“Taking the oral contraceptive pill is not without risks, and people need to talk to their GP about which contraceptive option is right for them. It can take a long time to determine which contraceptive pill is appropriate, and this is best done under the advice of a doctor,” said AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid in a statement.  

“Research shows contraceptive pill consultations are often about much more than getting a script. GPs often pick up health issues and conduct preventative health checks. Annual visits to the GP are also important to review contraception options.

“Medical and personal circumstances of the patient, including mental health are discussed. Other medical conditions, such as endometriosis might go unresolved without these important consultations,” Dr Khorshid said.

For information on the contraceptive pill, head here.

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