Irishhealth.com 1 May, 2009
A television advertisement for emergency contraception seen widely in Ireland has re-ignited calls for the ‘morning after pill’ to be available in the Republic without a prescription.
The advertisement for Levonelle is aimed at British women, who are able to get the pill over the counter (OTC) at pharmacies.
However, the advertisement shown on UTV, Sky and Channel 4, has been seen widely in the Republic, despite the fact that it is technically illegal to advertise prescription-only medication here.
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) chief executive Niall Behan said there was no good reason why Levonelle should not be available over the counter in pharmacies in this country.
“It is available over the counter in the UK, in most European countries, across the US, Canada and Australia.
“It is a very, very safe drug, and there are no medical reasons for it not being available.”
A study published in the British Medical Journal, found that making emergency contraception available over the counter in the UK did not lead to an increase in its use or to a decrease in the use of other forms of contraception.
Mr Behan said that it was absolutely unfair that women in the Republic have to pay to see a GP for emergency contraception, while women in most other countries can simply visit their pharmacist.
"These are very safe drugs. It doesn’t matter how many times a woman takes them from a medical perspective. We haven’t heard of any complications with emergency contraception, and you can’t say that about any drugs,” Mr Behan said.
"Having to see a GP for emergency contraception is a significant barrier, particularly on long weekends and Sundays. Even more so when you consider that emergency contraception is more effective the sooner it is taken."
While emergency contraception (often known as ‘the morning after pill’) can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, it is most effective if used during the first 48 hours.
“It is emergency contraception so it should only be used in an emergency situation. It is not an effective method of long-term contraception,” Mr Behan said.
“However, not all methods protect against sexually transmitted infections and we would strongly advise people to use a condom as well.”
The Irish Family Planning Association run Sunday emergency contraception clinics in two clinics – Cathal Brugha Street (off O’Connell Street, Dublin) from 2pm-5pm, phone: 01 872 7088; and in The Square, Tallaght from 12-3pm, phone: 01 459 7685.
The Dublin Well Woman Centre also run an emergency contraception clinic on Sundays in Lower Liffey Street (beside the Ha'penny Bridge), from 1-4pm. For more information, phone: 01 872 8051.
All of the centres are drop-in clinics, and an appointment is not necessary