Contraception in pharmacy.
Alderley Park, Cheshire, UK – 16 May 2023
Last week, we had first sight of the UK Government’s NHS recovery plan, a radical overhaul of primary care, with community pharmacy at its core. Finally, it feels that the skill, knowledge, and medical expertise that pharmacists hold is being unlocked, providing the public with much needed access to medicines and advice including oral contraception.
The pressure on pharmacy over the past few years has been a regular media headline of late, where reduced staffing, increased workload, and lack of funding have created the perfect storm for pharmacy leaders. But with investment of £645 million promised to community pharmacy over the next two years, the narrative is set to change to a positive one.
Whilst the detail of how the recovery plan is yet to be seen, and negotiations get underway, the PSNC has maintained its stance that the proposed pharmacy contraception service should not be provided by its contractors until funding is clarified.
The pharmacy contraception service has experienced positive regional pilots over the past few years, however the national roll-out was reported to be the straw that broke the camel’s back in community pharmacy when it was “imposed” last month. It was reported that only 4% of pharmacies had signed up to the service, there was a very public withdrawal of support from the NPA and London LPC, and chains such as Day Lewis stated that they could not implement the service without further funding.
With many women now starting sexual activity earlier in life, and having children later, some women can spend up to 30 years trying to avoid an unplanned pregnancy1. In the UK 45% of all pregnancies and 1/3 of births are unplanned or associated with feelings of ambivalence2, not only impacting women’s mental health, but also placing a huge burden on the NHS at a cost of around £193 million each year3.
In 2021, there was a landmark moment in women’s health, as the progesterone only contraceptive pill (desogestrel) was reclassified by the UK medicines regulator, making it a P medicine and available to buy over the counter in pharmacy without a prescription. Maxwellia, a pioneering UK based start-up consumer healthcare company, was one of the companies that drove this first-in-class innovation, with the launch of their contraceptive brand, Lovima®.
Research commissioned by Lovima® found that almost three quarters (70%) of women who have used contraception agreed the contraceptive pill should be easier to get hold of and more widely available. The survey, which questioned 1,009 women in the UK aged 18-55, also found that nearly half (44%) would be willing to pay to get the contraception they need more quickly and easily.
“There is a huge cohort of women out there that are willing to pay to access their contraception more easily” says Anna Maxwell, founder, and CEO of Maxwellia. “With delays to the pharmacy contraception service, over-the-counter contraception, such as Lovima, provides an effective solution to women that is available now.”
“We recognise that not all women can, or want to pay for their contraception, however there are many that will, and we should not be afraid to talk about a paid for service for those that want it. What’s more, as an OTC medicine, Lovima will add incremental revenue to pharmacy’s bottom line, which is key in these challenging economic times.” adds Ms Maxwell.
Progestogen only pills (POPs) remain a popular choice for many women. Desogestrel is the most widely prescribed ingredient in a contraceptive pill, and POPs make up more than 50% of oral contraceptive prescriptions in the UK4. The availability of the contraceptive pill OTC, and the increased access to online sexual health services, have changed the way women access their contraception in the past few years. PCA data shows a reduction in NHS prescriptions of desogestrel of 8% in 2021 compared to 2020, which is significant given there were 3.1m desogestrel prescriptions written in 2020, demonstrating that convenience is outweighing the cost for many women.
“Lovima® provides, a ready to go, safe and effective contraception solution for pharmacies, with simple, easy to follow supply information provided on the pack to help the pharmacist ask the right questions, along with full instructions for women to follow. And there is no requirement to dispense, or update records and systems.” explains Alexandra Trehane, Maxwellia’s Head of Innovation, and one of the key team members involved in the desogestrel reclassification.
“As a progestogen-only pill, Lovima does not require a blood pressure check, or weight management (required for other types of pill), making the experience non-intrusive and time-efficient. A win-win for both women and pharmacists.” Ms Trehane continues.
With Tier 1 of the pharmacy contraception service still in negotiations, and Tier 2 not expected until October 2023 at the earliest, OTC contraception such as Lovima is available for pharmacies right NOW, giving women the choice and ease of access that they need. What’s more, Lovima can be recommended to women who want to start taking the contraceptive pill for the first time and may be suitable for women looking to switch from alternative oral hormonal contraception.
Lovima can be purchased wholesale via AAH and Alliance Healthcare, or direct by contacting email@example.com. Pharmacists can refresh their Lovima training with engaging videos and downloadable training materials at Lovima.com/hcp.
For more information, or to interview Anna Maxwell please contact:
Kim Wathall: +44 (0)7467 489350 firstname.lastname@example.org