Kiwi pharmacists now offer better access to oral contraceptives

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Trained New Zealand pharmacists are now able to dispense repeat supplies of oral contraceptives to women who have had them prescribed within the last three years, following a Medicines Classification Committee recommendation to reclassify selected oral contraceptives as restricted medicines.

The Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand welcomed the move, saying it strongly supported the reclassification proposal when it was originally submitted to MCC last year.

The NZ Guild says it believes the model of care recommended by the MCC for the supply of oral contraceptives provides considerable safety, ensures all women speak with a health professional, and provides an integrated approach with multiple opportunities for a referral to a doctor or other health care team.

“We welcome the work from Green Cross Health and Natalie Gauld Limited to progress this reclassification to improve access to oral contraceptives for many women,” Guild chief executive Lee Hohaia says.

“Pharmacists are already providing a number of health services to their local communities cost effectively, efficiently and conveniently and we strongly support the move towards making medicine such as oral contraceptives more conveniently accessible for women.

“The Ministry’s health policy is to deliver more convenient health services to patients in their communities and this reclassification supports this.

“Access will be particularly improved over weekends and public holidays when general practice and family planning clinics are generally closed. Availability from community pharmacies, many of which are open on weekends and have extended opening hours, will ensure continuity of treatment for women who have run out of their contraceptive pill.

“The reclassification will also provide women with a complete solution at the time of a pharmacy-held ECP consultation if necessary, provided they have previously been prescribed the oral contraceptive within the last three years.

“Oral contraceptive and ECP consultations can also provide opportunistic screenings for other health issues a patient may have. Many community pharmacies now have a private consultation area within the pharmacy, allowing the upmost respect for patient privacy and confidentiality and pharmacists are well equipped to be having these conversations with patients and identifying other potential health concerns.

“In regards to this reclassification it will be important for pharmacists to notify the patient’s doctor, with a patient’s consent, of the supply of the oral contraceptive, to ensure the maintenance of a full health record. Electronic health records will streamline this process and encourage further collaboration between a patient’s health care team.

“There are some issues we need to work through to further understand the implementation detail. In particular, the Guild is looking forward to clarifying the detail of the training programme pharmacists will need to undergo to prescribe the oral contraceptive, and how this will be accredited and maintained to ensure patients are receiving a consistent and professional service from any accredited pharmacist across the country.

“We are also pleased with MCC’s recommendation to make flu vaccinations available from a trained pharmacist to people 13 years and over. Previously this has only been available in pharmacy to those aged 18 and over. This reclassification will ensure further access to a wider population, resulting in higher rates of immunisation and healthier communities this coming flu season.

“Community pharmacy is ideally placed and qualified to be providing these extended services to their patients and we are extremely pleased to see MCC support community pharmacy in playing a greater role in primary health care.”

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