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Proposals to sell morning-after pill without prescription are dangerous and ill-advised - 2 May 2003

Proposals to make the abortifacient morning-after pill available for sale over the pharmacy counter, without prescription, are dangerous and ill-advised, spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, Mary Joseph, said today.

The National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee will next month consider a proposal to allow purchase of the morning-after pill Postinor-2 without a prescription.

"Drug company Schering launched Postinor-2 last year with assurances that it had no intention to apply to sell the drug without a prescription. In a statement the company said '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 Australian, 1 July 2002). Where's their concern for patients now?", said Ms Joseph.

"It would be dangerous to allow women to take Postinor-2 without medical advice. When prescribing Postinor-2 doctors need to have an understanding of the patient's medical history and undertake a medical examination to identify any possible complications in using the drug.

"Complications might include the possibility of the woman already being pregnant from earlier sexual activity, the drug's interaction with other medication the patient is taking or hypersensitivity to ingredients in the
drug.

"A pharmacist would not be able to take a full medical history in privacy in a busy pharmacy and would not be qualified to undertake a medical examination.

"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.

"Unless women have access to a doctor before a prescription for Postinor-2 is issued, they will not be likely to have the opportunity to ask questions and find out about the abortion-inducing nature of the drug and its potential ramifications for their health. So much for informed consent."

Issued:    2 May 2003

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