The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has announced that, for the first time ever, women will now be able to buy progesterone-only oral contraceptive pills without prescription in the UK.
Progesterone-only contraceptive pills containing desogestrel will soon be available to buy in pharmacies after a consultation with a pharmacist. Desogestrel is safe for most women to take and will still be available free of charge from a doctor, from commissioned services and sexual health clinics.
The products reclassified, Lovima 75 microgram film-coated tablets and Hana 75 microgram film-coated tablets, are both oral contraceptive pills 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 triggered by a reclassification request spearheaded by Maxwellia, a British pharma company.
Dr June Raine CBE, Chief Executive, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, 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.
“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.”
Maxwellia founder and CEO, Anna Maxwell, a registered pharmacist, says: “This decision is game-changing for many women who, for the first time in history, can now buy this form of oral contraception from their local pharmacy. It is clear that the limited and restricted way women can currently access contraception isn’t working for many of them. When the contraceptive pill was first made available in the UK 60 years ago this year, doctors were only allowed to prescribe it to married women. This is 2021. We have liberated this pill Lovima®, containing desogestrel 75mcg, from prescription status, so women can live the lifestyle they want, be in charge of their body and decide when or if they have a baby – and that includes choosing to buy Lovima® following a consultation with their pharmacist.”
Supporting the decision, Dr Anne Connolly MBE, GP and Chair of the Primary Care Women’s Health Forum, says: “We have been lobbying for this licence change for many years and are pleased it has finally happened. Providing greater access to effective contraception is so important in today’s society. Pharmacists are more than qualified to help women make the decision about whether the progestogen only pill is the right form of contraception for them but have been a highly underutilised contraceptive service resource until now. Recognising the important role pharmacists should play in our primary care service provision has always been important but never more than now during the COVID-19 pandemic.”