15 Feb 2017

Call for more nurses to prescribe the pill

1:09 pm on 15 February 2017

Giving more nurses throughout the country the ability to prescribe the contraceptive pill would give more people access than allowing pharmacies to sell it, Family Planning says.

nurse generic

Family Planning said giving more nurses the ability to prescribe the pill would give women greater accessibility to it. Photo: 123RF

The Ministry of Health has announced women on repeat prescriptions given to them by a medical practitioner will be able to get up to six months' supply at a time from their local pharmacy.

But Family Planning executive director Jackie Edmond said allowing more nurses to prescribe contraception would be cheaper and give more access than selling it over pharmacy counters.

"We see that that's the biggest impact, because we have so many nurses out and about through family planning clinics, through community providers."

Ms Edmond said she would be interested to see how many women choose to take up the option of buying the pill over the counter.

But at $45 for a three-month prescription, she said she thought a lot of women would stick to what they had been doing.

"Particularly younger women because [at] Family Planning it's free to come to an appointment and all you have is a prescription charge.

"I guess the good thing is that this offers another option for women and for some women that's going to be really convenient for them," she said.

"But probably lots of women will continue to go to GPs or Family Planning or their youth health service."

Royal New Zealand College of GPs president Tim Malloy said the pill at the pharmacy was still quite expensive for many people.

"The college holds a fear that we are potentially increasing the inequity of healthcare between those people who can afford it and those people who can't."

Mr Malloy said the college cared most about the safety of women using the pill.

"We're hoping that the suggestions that have been put forward into the scheme to ensure that safety issue is maintained are sufficient.

"We will wait and see how that pans out in terms of its evaluation."

Pharmacy retail group Green Cross Health was one of the companies pushing for its stores to be able to offer the pill over the counter.

It said between 140,000 and 200,000 women in New Zealand take the pill.

The company's group manager, Alison Van Wyk, said the decision meant pharmacists would be able to work more closely with medical practitioners on the matter.

But she said greater availability of the pill wasn't supposed to turn women away from where they had previously got it.

"We stand alongside nurses who prescribe, Family Planning and general practice around that convenient access.

"Now what we have is women have an additional choice as to where they choose to access their oral contraception."

Green Cross Health said it expected to have several brands of the contraceptive pill available after its pharmacists were trained in about three to four months.

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