The progesterone-only oral contraceptive pill (POP) is to be made available without prescription in the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has announced.
POPs containing desogestrel will soon be available to buy in pharmacies after a consultation with a pharmacist, increasing choice for women in how they can access contraception.
The reclassified desogestrel products, Lovima (Maxwellia) 75 microgram film-coated tablets and Hana (HRA Pharma) 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 (RCOG), Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, and British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the majority of which supported the move.
Desogestrel will still be available free of charge from a doctor, from commissioned services, and sexual health clinics.
Dr June Raine, chief executive, 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."
Dr Edward Morris, president of RCOG, said: "We are delighted that all those who need the progestogen-only oral contraceptive pill 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."
Last year, a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Sexual and Reproductive Health noted that ongoing difficulties accessing contraception in the UK had been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report had backed calls for the POP to be made available over the counter in pharmacies.
This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.