Campaigners are welcoming the news that two progestogen-only contraceptive pills will be able to buy over the counter without a prescription for the first time.
Two types of contraceptive pill can now be bought over the counter at pharmacies without a prescription, the UK medicine regulator has ruled.
Progestogen-only Hana and Lovima tablets are to be provided over the counter after being reclassified by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
This is the first time women will be able to buy progesterone-only oral contraceptive pills, which contain desogestrel, without prescription in the UK.
Buyers will still need to have a consultation with the pharmacist, and combined oestrogen and progesterone pills still require a prescription.
But the landmark decision should make access to contraception easier for people, especially at a time when the pandemic has made this more difficult.
The MHRA says desogestrel is safe for most women to take – the NHS has detailed advise on who can take the progestogen-only pill on its website.
The pills will also still be available free of charge from a doctor, sexual health clinics and commissioned services.
Dr June Raine, head of the MHRA, 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.
She added: “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), added: “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.”