Medsafe reclassifies selected oral contraceptives

Sector news
14 February 2017
Medsafe announced today that it has accepted the Medicines Classification Committee (MCC) recommendation to reclassify selected oral contraceptives (SOCs) -- desogestrel, ethinylestradiol, norethisterone and levonorgestrel, from prescription to restricted, making it possible for pharmacists to supply them under certain circumstances without a prescription. 

The change, which  will come into effect when gazetted later in February  will enable pharmacists to sell up to six months’ supply of SOCs to a woman provided she has been prescribed the same oral contraceptive within the last three years and has not developed any risk factors.

In addition, the woman should meet one of the following five scenarios:

1.  NZ woman who has run out of her SOC
2.  overseas woman who has run out of her SOC
3.  woman collecting the emergency contraceptive pill who is a previous SOC user
4.  woman wanting to restart contraception who is a previous SOC user
5.  woman wanting postpartum contraception who is a previous SOC user (the pharmacist can provide an interim supply of the POP but the woman will also be referred to her GP).

There is also a condition that there be no switching between selected combined oral contraceptive pill formulations, except where  the woman is from overseas and the formulation is not available in New Zealand. 

The new recommendation also provides that registered pharmacists supplying the SOC should have successfully completed a training programme that is accredited by the Pharmacy Council and the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand.

A media release by Green Cross, who proposed the reclassification, said that  the cost to customers will be $45 for a three-month supply of oral contraceptives.

In a submission to the MCC in 2016, the College argued against the reclassification of the oral contraceptive under the conditions outlined in the proposal. In particular, the College considered the proposed interval of three years between prescriptions was too long and suggested that  12 months would be a safer interval. 
The College thanks members who provided feedback during the consultation.