Canada Considers Proposal to Sell Morning After Pill Without Pharmacist

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 30, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canada Considers Proposal to Sell Morning After Pill Without Pharmacist

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 30
, 2008

Ottawa, Canada ( — Canadian women have been able to purchase the morning after pill without a prescription for three years, but a governmental panel is considering removing more limits by putting the drug on the store shelves and make it so consulting with the pharmacist is no longer necessary.

Opponents of the idea say the policy would make Canada the industrialized nation with the most permissive procedures on purchasing the Plan B pill.

A representative from the nation’s pharmacists group says the new policy opens the door for teenagers and young girls to purchase the drug without any input from a medical professional.

"Emergency contraceptives would be more readily available here [under the proposal] than in any developed country," Janet Cooper of the Canadian Pharmacists Association told the National Post.

"I’m not sure how comfortable the general public might be if a 14-year-old could just walk in, pick it up off the shelf, buy it, not have any interaction with anybody and come back a month later and do the same thing," she added. "That’s not in that girl’s best interests."

Cooper said pharmacists currently counsel customers — especially young women — on sexual practices and sometimes make medical referrals.

The National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities is the final decision maker on how the drug will be sold. The Post said another agency, the National Drug Scheduling Advisory Committee suggested the change after getting a request from the drug’s manufacturer, Paladin Labs Inc.

The final decision is expected on May 14.

The other nations, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands, sell the drug "in front of the counter" as the Canadian agency is proposing. The drug is sold over the counter in the United States to women above the age of 18.

Abortion advocates have claimed higher use of the Plan B drug through over-the-counter sales will result in a drop in unintended pregnancies and fewer abortions.

However, research and reports show that’s not happening.

Dr. Joseph Stanford, associate professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine, says studies he and fellow researchers have done show a lower effectiveness rate than the 89 percent Barr Laboratories claims.

"We did more a precise meta-analysis that shows it’s effective only 72 percent of the time, and even that number is optimistic," he indicated.

He also told the newspaper that studies from Europe, China and the United States show that the morning after pill does not reduce abortions.

In fact, figures from Scotland show that a decision to sell the morning after pill over the counter resulted in an increase in the number of abortions.

In the past five years since the morning-after pill was made available over the counter, hundreds of thousands of women have used it. But the Scotland government reported 13,081 abortions in 2006, up from 12,603 the previous year — an increase of nearly 3.8 percent.