The CWHN Applauds Health Canada Proposal to Give Non-prescription Status to Morning After Pill, But Says It's Not Enough

Monday, July 26 2010
'Over the counter' access to emergency contraception essential


Levonorgestrel, commonly known as "the morning after pill" or "Plan B," is an emergency hormonal contraceptive (EC) that can be used up to 72 hours after unprotected intercourse to reduce the possibility of pregnancy. To date, levonorgestrel has been only available in most provinces with a doctor's


prescription. But at long last, all women in Canada may have easier access to this important emergency contraceptive.


Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew announced today that Health Canada will move forward with its proposal to change the regulatory status of EC from a prescription drug to "Schedule II status" as a non-prescription product. This means that emergency contraception would be available in pharmacies without requiring a visit to the doctor or a doctor's prescription. This is also referred to as "behind the counter" status.


The Canadian Women's Health Network (CWHN) strongly endorses changing the status of EC from a prescription to a non-prescription product. However, the CWHN also urges that measures be taken to ensure equitable access to EC by making it available "over-the-counter" without pharmacist assistance.


According to Madeline Boscoe, Executive Director of the Canadian Women's Health Network the proposed change is not good enough. "There is no compelling medical argument to require contact with the pharmacist to obtain emergency contraception. Schedule II status for emergency contraception will create needless barriers for Canadian women by increasing costs and reducing women's privacy."


The World Health Organization and other professional organizations recognize that EC is medically safe and requires no physical assessment, and that the dosage is the same for all women.


Abby Lippman, Co-chair of the Canadian Women's Health Network, and Professor of Epidemiology at McGill University says that "so long as credible information about emergency contraception is provided at the point of sale, in plain language with accompanying pictures, and in a variety of languages, there is no need for pharmacist intervention."


The CWHN also wants Health Canada to take measures to ensure that the change from prescription to Schedule II status does not shift the costs for EC to individual girls and women. "For emergency contraception to be available equally to all women in Canada it has to be inexpensive and easy to access. Schedule II status only bring us half way there," says Lippman.   See the Canadian Women's Health Network detailed letter to the Therapeutic Products Directorate on emergency contraception for more details:

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