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Pharmacies selling the pill without prescription
Irish Examiner 11/06/2007
by Cornelia Lucey and Niamh Hennessy

Pharmacists are selling the contraceptive pill to women without a prescription.

Under the pharmaceutical code of practice, a pharmacist may give a month's contraceptive pill without a doctors order.

However, this is being exploited by women who don't want to shell out €50 to visit a doctor every three to six months for a repeat prescription.

“Rules around emergency supplies mean that a pharmacist can use they're professional judgment to give the pill over in emergency circumstances – if the patient is on holidays, or unable to get to a doctor”, said Kate Healy of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union.

“A pharmacist may check with your normal pharmacist - or choose not to.”

Dr Ronan Boland, chairman of the GP committee, supports the practice but believes pharmacists should exercise caution.

“There has to be some flexibility. While the length of the prescription should not be exceeded, there are occasions when this is the only option and pharmacists will feel it fit to use their discretion,” he said.

“But ideally there should be an established relationship between the customer and the pharmacist. Pharmacists would in a sense be bending the rules if they let a customer purchase the pill without dispensing information.”

The IPU is also campaigning for the freedom of pharmacists to distribute the pill over the counter after pharmaceutical advice.

A spokeswoman from the Crisis Pregnancy Agency said it has never heard of a situation where a person can receive the contraceptive pill without a prescription.

A recent survey from pharmaceutical company Schering found one in ten women in Ireland is using the Pill.

The Well Woman Centre in Dublin said on a patient's first visit it will prescribe the pill for three months and review this to see if there are problems or questions.

If the patient is happy it will then give them a six month prescription. If the patient experiences any side effects it will discuss changing to a different pill. At each check-up, a doctor will usually check a patients weight and blood pressure to ensure the pill prescribed is suitable for them.

Women taking the pill are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. One month's supply of the pill costs between €10 and €13. There are several pills available and most contain a combination of hormones oestrogen and progesterone.