Two progestogen-only contraceptives now available OTC in pharmacies

Progestogen-only contraceptive pills containing desogestrel will soon be available to buy in pharmacies after a consultation with a pharmacist, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced.

The products reclassified, Lovima 75 microgram film-coated tablets and Hana 75 microgram film-coated tablets, are both oral contraceptives for continuous use to prevent pregnancy in those of childbearing age.

The MHRA’s decision to reclassify these desogestrel products follows a safety review by the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) and a public consultation.

As part of the decision-making process, the MHRA sought views from patients, pharmacists, prescribers and a wide range of stakeholders including the Royal College of Gynaecologists, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, and British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

Dr June Raine CBE, Chief Executive, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said:

“This is good news for women and families. 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.”

“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.”

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said:

“We are delighted that all those who need the progestogen-only oral contraceptive pill (POP) can now go into their local pharmacy and access it without needing a prescription. The RCOG has called for this for some time and it was a key recommendation of the College’s Better for Women report. This announcement is a huge win for women and girls who will no longer face unnecessary barriers when accessing this type of contraception.

“Even before the pandemic, too many women and girls were struggling to access basic women’s health services. The consequences of this include an increase in the number of unplanned pregnancies, which can result in poorer outcomes for women and their babies. Enabling women and girls to access POP more easily and conveniently will give them more control over their reproductive health, which can only be a good thing.”

Robbie Turner, Royal Pharmaceutical Society Director of Pharmacy said:

“This is a positive step for women which will increase access to the progestogen-only pill. Community pharmacies are conveniently located and pharmacists can provide expert, confidential advice on all aspects of contraception, helping women to make an informed choice about their needs.”

Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:

“The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare fully supports the reclassification of progestogen-only pills to a pharmacy medicine, something we have recommended for many years.

“Progestogen-only contraceptive pills are safe, reliable, easy to use and are an incredibly popular contraceptive method. Availability over the counter in pharmacies will make it easier for women to access essential contraception to avoid unplanned pregnancies during and beyond Covid-19. The fragmented Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare system is notoriously difficult for women to navigate, and successive cuts to Public Health budgets have made it harder for women to get the contraception they need. Reclassification may also reduce unnecessary pressures on GPs, who will not need to see patients for repeat prescriptions.

“However, reclassification of some brands is only the first step, and buying contraception should definitely not be the only solution. We are calling for these pills to be available to everyone for free in community pharmacies, as well as the reclassification of other contraceptives moving forward.”

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said:

“We are delighted that all those who need the progestogen-only oral contraceptive pill (POP) can now go into their local pharmacy and access it without needing a prescription. The RCOG has called for this for some time and it was a key recommendation of the College’s Better for Women report. This announcement is a huge win for women and girls who will no longer face unnecessary barriers when accessing this type of contraception.

“Even before the pandemic, too many women and girls were struggling to access basic women’s health services. The consequences of this include an increase in the number of unplanned pregnancies, which can result in poorer outcomes for women and their babies. Enabling women and girls to access POP more easily and conveniently will give them more control over their reproductive health, which can only be a good thing.”

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service broadly welcomed the change but made a plea for the consultation associated with future supplies to be swift and straightforward:

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