There has been a significant drop in the number of prescriptions being dispensed for oral contraception since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. Information revealed recently by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) shows that there has been a 10 per cent decrease in prescriptions for the pill dispensed, compared to the same period last year. 

HMR Ireland worked with 73 per cent of Irish pharmacies in collecting this information, which showed a significant drop-off in both the oral contraception that is taken by women on an ongoing basis, and emergency hormonal contraception. 

Community pharmacist and IPU Executive Committee member Ms Caitriona O’Riordan said: “There could be a number of reasons why fewer women are currently accessing the pill. Some may be wary of moving around and visiting a pharmacy, while others may have already finished their six-month prescription and don’t realise that pharmacists can currently extend this. We want to reassure everyone that pharmacies are open and operating as normal; they have also put in place stringent physical distancing measures to ensure there is no risk to patients.”

Ms Maeve O’Brien, Interim Programme Lead of the HSE’s Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme, added: “We would encourage women who have a prescription for the contraceptive pill and who are sexually active to contact their pharmacist. If you need to renew your prescription, your pharmacist may be able to provide you with additional supplies of your contraception, if it is safe and appropriate to do so. Lower numbers of women accessing their usual contraception methods may increase the risk of unplanned pregnancies occurring. We would also advise women who have been sexually active without using contraception, and not planning a pregnancy, to contact their pharmacist to arrange an emergency hormonal contraception consultation. Information on contraception is available on http://www.sexualwellbeing.ie.”

Ms O’Riordan concluded: “Pharmacists have previously called for the pill to be made available in pharmacies without prescription. The drop in use that we are seeing at the moment further emphasises the importance of improving access to contraception. This is about giving choice to women, and pharmacists are happy to offer that choice currently; we hope it can be enhanced in future.”