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Direct access to contraceptives in pharmacies under consideration

By Catherine Reilly - 14th Nov 2022


The potential for oral contraceptives becoming available from pharmacists, without a doctor’s prescription, is being considered by an expert group in the HSE. It is due to report to the Department of Health by the end of the year. 

A Department spokesperson said this issue was considered as part of the work of the contraception implementation group and was deemed to require consideration by an expert group. 

“Accordingly, the matter has been referred to clinical experts in the HSE, requesting a formal recommendation,” the spokesperson told the Medical Independent

“The clinical expert group includes pharmacists, nurses and midwives, obstetricians, and general practitioners; the group are currently examining clinical considerations and the national and international guidance in order to underpin a formal response. The advice is expected to be received by the Department of Health before the end of the year. Needless to say, any subsequent regulatory actions will depend on the nature of clinical recommendations.” 

The Irish Pharmacy Union had been informed by Government that potential direct access to oral contraceptives from pharmacists will be considered under plans to expand age eligibility for the free contraception scheme in 2023. 

To date, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) has not received an application from a pharmaceutical company to reclassify an oral contraceptive medicine to permit sale and supply without a prescription. 

However, the Authority was “open” to reviewing such applications. “This is in line with the HPRA’s policy to make medicines and health products available at the most convenient point of access for people, where it is safe and appropriate to do so,” said a HPRA spokesperson 

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