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Alarm over approval for sales of Postinor-2 morning-after pill without prescription - 20 June 2003

The decision announced today to allow over-the-counter pharmacy sales of the morning-after pill Postinor-2, without medical advice, could put women’s health at risk, spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, Mary Joseph, said today.

The National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee announced today that it has approved allowing the purchase of the morning-after pill Postinor-2 (Levonorgestrel) without a prescription.

“Postinor-2 can cause an early abortion by preventing an embryo from implanting in the womb. The drug is often described as a contraceptive. But preventing the implantation of an embryo happens after conception. Women can’t give their informed consent to using the drug without knowing this”, said Ms Joseph.

“When approval was given to sell Postinor-2 in Australia, the drug’s manufacturer Schering gave assurances that it had no intention to apply to sell the drug without a prescription. To reassure the public, the company told The Australian (1 July 2002) ‘it is only to be used as an emergency contraceptive and one of the reasons it is available on prescription only is so that doctors can regulate how patients use it’.

“The requirement for a prescription ensures the opportunity for a doctor to consider the woman’s medical history and to do a medical examination before making a judgement as to whether Postinor-2 is a suitable drug for the particular woman.

“This would include considering issues such as whether the woman is already pregnant from earlier sexual activity, or whether the woman suffers from a range of conditions such as severe hypertension, unexplained vaginal bleeding or hypersensitivity to any of the ingredients of the drug.

“The prescribing information contains a recommendation that there be a further medical consultation in the event that a woman vomits, suffers nausea or other side effects after taking Levonorgestrel and that there be a routine medical consultation three weeks after the drug is taken. It is less likely such precautions will be taken by a patient if a doctor is not involved in initially prescribing the drug.

“It is generally agreed that morning after pills are not suitable for regular use. Making the drug more easily accessible by removing the requirement for a prescription would lead to some women using the drug more regularly and putting their health at risk.”

Contact:    Mary Joseph, spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, telephone 02 6253 3100