Medical card holders to get immediate access to morning after pill

Pharmacists say restricted availability of emergency contraception discriminatory

Women with medical cards need a prescription to get the morning after pill, which is most effective when taken within 24 hours of sex, free of charge.

Women with medical cards need a prescription to get the morning after pill, which is most effective when taken within 24 hours of sex, free of charge.

 

Women with medical cards will shortly be able to get the morning after pill for free without a prescription, according to Minister for Health Simon Harris.

The medical card scheme is being expanded to include the provision of emergency contraception from July this year, Mr Harris will tell the annual conference of the Irish Pharmacy Union this morning.

The IPU has long claimed the HSE is discriminating against medical card-holders in relation to accessing emergency contraception.

Since 2011, pharmacists have been permitted to supply the morning after pill without a prescription, but women with medical cards have to go first to a doctor for a prescription in order to get the drug for free.

Pharmacists argued that a medicine which is known to be most effective within 24 hours of unprotected sex should be available immediately, free of charge, to women with medical cards.

In 2015, former minister for health Leo Varadkar undertook to examine the feasibility of changing the medical cards scheme in response to representations made by the IPU.

Mr Harris has now decided to go ahead with the provision of emergency contraception under the GMS service. A spokeswoman said the Minister was of the view that the current system represented an “unfair anomaly” and a barrier to timely treatment for women who are medical card holders.

“The Minister believes that all women, irrespective of their means, should have the same access to emergency contraception when they need it.”