Consultations on the reclassification of two progestogen-only contraceptive pills from prescription-only (POMs) to pharmacy (P) medicines have been launched by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The medicines regulator said this is the first time a switch to making these contraceptive products available from pharmacies without a prescription has been considered.
The consultation affects two oral contraceptive products containing desogestrel: Lovima 75 microgram film-coated tablets and Hana 75 microgram film-coated tablets. It follows advice from the Commission on Human Medicines that it is safe for the two products to be made available as P medicines.
“Every response received will help us gain a better picture of whether people think the contraceptive pill with desogestrel should be available over the counter,” said Sarah Branch, director of vigilance and risk management of medicines at the MHRA. “We hope to hear from as many people and women’s groups as possible.”
Contraceptive pills containing desogestrel will still be available on prescription from GPs and sexual health clinics, Branch clarified.
Asha Kasliwal, president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said that the organisation “fully” supported the reclassification of progestogen-only pills to a P medicine, and said it was “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,” she said.
“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, Kasliwal said that reclassification of one brand was “only the first step”, and buying contraception should 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.”
As Lovima and Hana are two products, two separate consultations will be required; however, the MHRA said it would assess responses that relate to the active ingredient (desogestrel) as applying to both products, even if views are only submitted for one.
The consultations will run until 5 March 2021.