Canada Pharmacy Association Allows Morning After Pill Sales on Shelves

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 15, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canada Pharmacy Association Allows Morning After Pill Sales on Shelves

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 15
, 2008

Ottawa, Canada ( — The national pharmacy organization in Canada has approved a request to sell the morning after pill "in front of the counter." That means the Plan B drug will be sold on store shelves instead of keeping it behind the pharmacy counter and purchasing the drug through the pharmacist.

Once the approval becomes official, Canada will become the fifth country to make the morning after pill as readily available as cough syrup or aspirin.

The National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities has accepted a recommendation from the National Drug Scheduling Advisory Committee, which suggested the change after hearing from the drug’s Canadian manufacturer, Paladin Labs Inc.

Though the agency approved the request, each of the provincial pharmacy associations oversee the regulations in their parts of the nation, so additional decisions will be needed before the drug is made available in front of the counter nationwide.

It could be months before those decisions are made and implemented.

Once they approve the NAPRA decision, Canada will join Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and India in putting the morning after pill on the same level as pre-packaged non-prescription medications.

A representative from the nation’s pharmacists group previously worried 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.

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.