Doctors’ criticisms force Medsafe to reconsider pharmacists selling the pill

Stuff 5 May 2016
Family First Comment: Quite right. The health and welfare of the woman is paramount.

Health officials may be forced into an embarrassing backtrack after a recommendation that pharmacists be allowed sell birth control pills without a doctor’s script.

The controversial issue was put back on the agenda this week after harsh criticisms by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners that Medsafe’s decision-making was flawed and risked harming patients.

Last November, Medsafe, the Government’s medicines regulator, agreed to reclassify some oral contraceptives from prescription-only to restricted medicines after it considered a revised proposal to let specially trained pharmacists sell a six-month supply of four oral contraceptives to women previously prescribed them within the past three years.

But the college’s manager of strategic policy, Michael Thorn, objected, forcing Medsafe’s Medicines Classification Committee to reconsider the issue at its latest meeting on Tuesday.

Green Cross Healthcare, the country’s largest pharmacy chain, had been seeking approval to sell the pill over-the-counter for several years.

A year ago, Medsafe rejected its proposal to change the pill’s classification so pharmacists could sell it because it failed to gain backing by a medical organisation, so Green Cross Health lodged a revised proposal. It included tighter restrictions and was limited to women previously prescribed oral contraceptives in the past three years.

The new proposal won favour with some in the medical fraternity, including partial support from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

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