Increase access to oral contraception by letting pharmacist do their jobs

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) calls on the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to improve access to oral contraception.

Under the ‘continued dispensing’ arrangements in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists have been safely dispensing oral contraceptives to patients who have previously been prescribed the medicine without a current prescription. The pandemic aside, Australian pharmacists have an eight-year track record of supplying oral contractive pills under continued dispensing arrangements, demonstrating their competence in continuing to perform this activity.

Yesterday, the TGA announced an interim decision which will revert to pre-pandemic arrangements, once again limiting a woman’s ability to access to oral contraceptives without a prescription through Australian pharmacies.

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, said:

“This interim decision is very disappointing, and we will be responding to the TGA to reconsider their position before making a final decision. The benefits of improved access to oral contraception are clear. Well-established models exist overseas, where pharmacists can provide the medicine once it has previously been prescribed.

“Predictably, the Australian doctors’ lobby groups are more worried about ‘protecting their own turf’, than providing women with timely, cheaper and safe access to contraception. The public are sick of it. The AMA don’t bat an eyelid when it comes to fringe online prescription services but are comfortable in restricting access for Australian pharmacists.

“We have already seen the success of continued dispensing of oral contraceptives through the pandemic, and internationally, there are well-established models which demonstrate the success of pharmacists’ role in this process.

“We respect the TGA’s process and will continue to work closely with them over the coming weeks in order to improve access to medicines,” A/Prof Freeman said.

Dr Fei Sim, Chair of the PSA’s Contemporary Community Pharmacy Practice Community of Specialty Interest (CCPP-CSI), said:

“It is very disappointing to see the AMA and RACGP continue advocating to restrict women’s access to the oral contraceptive pill. To say that this decision preserves safe access to this critical medicine is ludicrous – one that does not take into consideration the best interests of patients. As Australia’s most accessible health care providers, pharmacists are ideally placed to support patients to access this critical medicine.

“Time is quite literally of the essence when patients are seeking access to contraception, therefore, we must have a process in place that enables safe access to such medication, without the red tape. When it comes to contraception, it is imperative that we have a patient-centric approach, one that Australian women need and deserve.

“The same rhetoric we saw in the initial stages of pharmacists providing immunisations has now resurfaced, whereby, doctors’ groups advocated against immunisations being administered by pharmacists for the same hollow reason they want to restrict access to contraception. Now, pharmacists’ true impact on the COVID rollout has been demonstrated by administering over 1.3 million COVID-19 vaccinations,” Dr Sim said.

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