Digital pharmacy service Healthwave has launched Ireland’s first pharmacy-led payment plan for long-term contraceptive methods. The launch marks the first year of Healthwave’s female-focused initiative that, to date, has provided over 100,000 oral contraceptive pills free of charge to Healthwave members. Currently, over 500 female members of Healthwave digital pharmacy avail of the free oral contraception offer. 

There is growing demand among women in Ireland for long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), with many women becoming increasingly aware of the benefits. ‘Fit and Forget’ contraceptives (LARCs) are also the most cost-effective form of contraception in the long term, but the initial up-front cost of €114 for the implant or coil can be a barrier to access. According to the Irish Family Planning Association, LARCs are 99 per cent effective, removing the risk of forgetting to take oral contraceptive pills, and last for three-to-five years.

The LARC payment plan can be paid over three instalments of €38 with an easy setup via the Healthwave website, according to Healthwave. “Our goal at Healthwave is to simplify access to medications. As the only pharmacy platform to offer a free oral contraception service, we are now seeing the increased demand for LARCs,” said Ms Catherine McNicholas, Director of pharmacy services at Healthwave.

“We are in a position to help women access their preferred form of contraception without the worry of a large up-front payment on top of the insertion fee. We hope our payment plan makes accessing LARC contraception both easier and affordable for women in Ireland…

In 2020, the Department of Health committee ruled there was no room in the Budget for a nationwide free contraception initiative. The Minister for Health had set a 2021 date for the initiative to give time for regulatory and policy issues to be addressed and legislation to be drafted and enacted.

Ms McNicholas continued: “Female health is a key focus for us at Healthwave, with improved access to contraception at the centre. While we advocate strongly for universally free contraception and welcome calls to introduce pharmacist prescribing of progesterone-only pills, we are fully committed to continuing and expanding our original contraception initiative for Irish women.”