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Morning-after pill health risks ignored by NSW Government - 3 November 2003

Spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, Mary Joseph, today condemned the decision of the NSW Government to allow over the counter pharmacy sales, without a prescription, of the morning-after pill Postinor-2 (Levonorgestrel), because of the threat it poses to women's health.

Director of Pharmaceutical Services for NSW Health, John Lumby, yesterday announced that the morning-after pill would be allowed for sale at pharmacies in NSW without prescription next year. Mr Lumby reportedly told ABC Radio that the pill will be available to women of any age and will complement ongoing safe sex campaigns.

"It beggars belief that the NSW Health would take away the safety requirement for women to consult a doctor before taking Postinor-2," said Ms Joseph.

"The morning-after pill is a hormonal preparation 50 times stronger than the mini pill. Prescriptions are necessary for the mini pill and many other hormonal drugs.

"The manufacturer's own product information cautions that there is 'limited data available in young women of childbearing potential aged 14 to 16 years' - yet NSW Health is reportedly allowing its sale to women of any age.

"Postinor-2's product information lists a number of risks and recommends that the risk-benefit ratio of using the drug should be assessed by a medical practitioner in discussion with the patient. For example, women should not use the drug if they are already pregnant. This involves doctors undertaking a medical examination for each patient. Pharmacists cannot offer this medical examination.

"Postinor-2 has nothing to do with safe sex. Safe sex campaigns are aimed at reducing the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. Postinor-2 is a drug that is taken after unprotected sex. It can prevent conception or prevent implantation of a human embryo.

"There is also a question over whether NSW Health will be ensuring that women are told Postinor-2 can cause an early abortion by preventing the implantation of an already conceived human embryo. Concealing this information means women cannot give their informed consent to use the drug."

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