Views and attitudes of oral contraceptive users towards the their availability without a prescription in the Republic of Ireland

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Luigi Barlassina


contraception, oral contraceptive, non prescription drugs, pharmacist, Ireland


Background: Previous studies show that provision of oral contraceptive pill (OCs) without a prescription is safe, feasible and effective and that users are interested in obtaining contraception in this way, especially if a pharmacist screening is involved. A recent national survey conducted in the Republic of Ireland has highlighted that unintended pregnancy resulting from the failure of OCs could be linked to poor compliance due to costs and difficulty of access.

Objective: To evaluate views and attitudes of OC users towards the availability of OCs without a prescription in the Republic of Ireland.

Methods: A cross sectional survey was conducted using an opportunistic sample of OC users aged 18 to 50 years. Sixty community pharmacists were recruited nationwide. Data were collected using self-completed questionnaires. The questionnaires comprised information on: demographic data, need of the service, views on the availability of OCs without prescription, advantages and concerns around the service, role of pharmacists and cost implications for private and public patients.

Results: A total of 488 eligible OC users completed the survey. The majority of the respondents (71.7%;n = 350/488) reported to have missed a pill for reasons connected to the OCs prescription status and 55.5% (n = 268/488) of the respondents reported to have felt distressed on at least one occasion because they could not renew their OC prescription. A total of 87.9% (n = 429/488) of the respondents said they were in favour of OCs being available without prescription and 92% (n = 448/488) said they were likely to obtain OCs without prescription if available. Convenience and ease of access were indicated as the main advantages of availing of OCs without prescription, while safety was the biggest concern reported. Over 88% (n = 430/488) of the respondents indicated that pharmacists would be able to safely supply OCs without prescription. Private patients expected to save an average of 27.3% on their OC if obtained without prescription.

Conclusions. OC users in the Republic of Ireland are in favour of OCs being available without prescription and are willing to obtain it this way, providing that pharmacists supply them according to protocols that facilitate the safety and the efficacy of the supply. An easier and more convenient access to OCs could also reduce the likelihood of missed pills and bring considerable savings to users.

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