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Over-the-counter medicines

New Zealand pharmacists will soon be able to dispense OTC oral contraception

Pharmacists in New Zealand will soon be able to dispense certain types of oral contraceptive to women without a prescription.

The decision was made by the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority (also known as Medsafe), which is responsible for the regulation of medicines and medical devices in New Zealand, and will allow specially trained pharmacists to give up to a six-month supply of oral contraception to women aged 16 years and over, provided they have received a prescription for a similar formulation within the previous three years.

“[We were] satisfied that pharmacists could supply oral contraceptives to women who meet the specified criteria with the same levels of safety as other healthcare professionals,” says Stewart Jessamine, chair of The New Zealand Medicines Classifications Committee, which makes recommendations to the New Zealand minister of health on the classification of medicines, and which reviewed the proposals.

To be authorised to dispense oral over-the-counter contraceptives, pharmacists will have to undergo additional training through the New Zealand Pharmacy Council and Pharmaceutical Society.

The reclassification was considered following an application from Green Cross Health, which runs two chains of community pharmacies in the country, and Natalie Gauld, a specialist consultant in medicines down-scheduling.

Gauld says that she is satisfied with the decision and that it should increase accessibility to contraception and prevent unwanted pregnancies.

“There has long been a call to take oral contraceptives off prescription… and research shows that pharmacists work well within the model of availability we have used in NZ for the emergency contraceptive, vaccinations, trimethoprim and sildenafil,” she says.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20202371

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