The contraceptive pill should be available over the counter without the need for a doctor’s prescription, according to an editorial in The Lancet (4 September 1993).
‘[Over-the-counter] status would improve the image of the Pill: all over the world women believe that [oral contraceptives] are more dangerous than they really are. A better image and easier access should go hand-in-hand with a reduction in the number of unintended pregnancies,’ it says. The limited health checks currently given by doctors before prescribing the Pill – testing blood pressure and so on – may be putting women off using this method of contraception, the editorial argues. ‘Some women are even afraid to get [oral contraceptives] because they are shy of physical examinations.’
It does concede, however, that some safeguards would be needed, such as a label detailing risk, but as to whether the would-be user falls into the high-risk category, she is clearly on her own: ‘The consumer knows her age and whether she smokes – the two most important risk factors.’
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
‘Why should a drug that is probably safer than aspirin and paracetamol not be sold in pharmacies without prescription? The oral contraceptive pill is the most intensively studied of all modern drugs and it has been used successfully by millions of healthy women. There is growing support to demedicalize it’ – Liz Hunt, medical writer, the London Independent.