Irish Times – October 14 2009
ALMOST HALF of women obtaining the morning-after pill are doing so outside the optimal 24-hour timeframe for its use, according to new research from the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA).
A study of 1,351 new clients who presented to its Cathal Brugha Street Clinic in Dublin in 2008 found that while 54 per cent of them presented for emergency contraception within 24 hours of unprotected or under-protected sex, 35 per cent of women only did so between 24 and 48 hours later while a further 11 per cent experienced a delay of 48 hours or more before accessing emergency contraceptive services.
While the morning-after pill is licensed for 72 hours after unprotected sex, the sooner a woman takes it the more effective it is. The IFPA said there was no medical reason why it should not be available over the counter in pharmacies in Ireland.
Dr Caitríona Henchion, medical director of the IFPA, said the first 24 hours were regarded as the optimal time in which to take it. She added that the delays in accessing the emergency contraceptive pill was a cause for concern and strengthened the case for making it available over the counter here.
It is currently available over the counter in 16 countries in the EU. “Requiring women to visit a doctor to get a prescription to access the emergency contraceptive pill causes an unreasonable delay in timely use. This unnecessary delay results in an increased risk of unplanned pregnancy,” Dr Henchion said.
It is up to manufacturers of the morning-after pill to make an application to the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) to have the product licensed for sale as an over-the-counter medicine. The IMB said it couldn’t comment on the presence or absence of any such application.
Meanwhile the IFPA study, in its latest annual report, also shows that more than half the women seeking emergency contraception were aged 22 years or older. Almost a quarter were aged between 22 and 25, 13 per cent aged between 26 and 29 years, 12 per cent between 30 and 39 years, and 3 per cent were women aged between 40 and 50 years.