Schering urges change to contraceptive laws

Drug manufacturer Schering Healthcare is lobbying for a new medicines licensing category which would allow nurses and pharmacists to prescribe its “morning after” contraceptive pill (MW June 11).

At the moment the pill is only available from a doctor and certain family planning professionals, but a Government-backed committee is considering creating a fourth drug licensing category which would allow other health professionals to prescribe certain medicines.

Schering, the UK’s sole manufacturer of the emergency contraceptive pill called PC4, wants to make it easier for women to obtain the drug by widening its availability.

Schering says it is “pleased to be initiating discussions to widen avail-ability of emergency contraception”.

PC4 can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. The Family Planning Association argues it cuts the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies.

Drugs are classified within three categories – prescription-only, pharmacist assisted (otherwise known as over-the-counter), and GSL, which stands for general sales list and covers all medicines sold off the shelf.

A consultative committee was set up in August headed by Dr June Crown to investigate whether certain medicines could be prescribed by more health professionals.

The Department of Health refuses to say if drug companies would have wider opportunities to market medicines in this new category, or identify which other drugs might be granted this status.

The Crown Report is expected to make its final recommendations at the end of August. A decision to let nurses and pharmacists prescribe certain medicines would fit with the Government’s primary healthcare initiative – aimed at saving GPs’ time.

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