The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), the body who regulates pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and registered pharmacies in Great Britain, has just consulted on new safeguards for online sales of medicines, including prescription-only medicines. FSRH has warned that new safeguarding measures could inadvertently create additional barriers for women to access their preferred method of contraception.
FSRH’s Vision affirms the fundamental right of men and women living in the UK to have confidential access to the full range of contraceptive methods from services based in different settings.
In the UK, emergency contraception is available free of charge in GP practices and community SRH clinics. Although the prices of online contraceptives can be prohibitive for low-income patients, many women will still choose to obtain it through online pharmacies. Online pharmacies play a vital role in this regard, and FSRH is concerned that the new safeguarding measures proposed by GPhC could inadvertently create additional barriers for women to access their preferred method of ongoing and/or emergency contraception.
With regards to contraceptive care, FSRH acknowledges but does not share GPhC’s concern that patients might learn “what answers to give so they can get the medicine in question” and that this “may result in medication being selected or later prescribed which may be inappropriate and lead to harm”. This can be the case in online purchases but also during phone and face-to-face consultations and, therefore, does not warrant tighter regulatory measures regarding online sales of oral contraception. The relationship between a patient and a healthcare provider is one of trust above all, and health professionals should trust women to make the decisions that are best to meet their needs.
You can download FSRH’s full response below.