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Why wait to offer a contraception service?

The news of a Pharmacy First scheme in England is exciting but it is important to remember that as far as contraception is concerned, a supply route already exists, says Anna Maxwell, chief executive of Maxwellia

We have now all had a chance to consider the NHS primary care recovery plan for England. Finally, it seems like the skills, knowledge and clinical expertise that pharmacists hold is being unlocked, providing the public with better access to medicines and advice including oral contraception. 

As negotiations on implementation get underway, Community Pharmacy England has maintained its stance that the proposed NHS Pharmacy Contraception Service should not be provided by contractors until the funding situation is clarified. 

While there have been positive regional pilots over the past few years, the national roll-out was reported to be the straw that broke the camel’s back in community pharmacy when it was ‘imposed’ in April. 

It has been reported that only 4 per cent of pharmacies had signed up to the service. There was a very public withdrawal of support by both the NPA and the Pharmacy London group of LPCs, while groups such as Day Lewis said they could not implement the service without further funding.

Landmark launch

In 2021, there was a landmark moment in women’s health, as the progestogen-only contraceptive pill (desogestrel) was reclassified as a P medicine, making it available to buy OTC in pharmacy. Maxwellia was one of the companies that drove this innovation with the launch of our contraceptive brand, Lovima.

With many women now starting sexual activity earlier in life and having children later, some can spend up to 30 years trying to avoid an unplanned pregnancy. Our research shows there is a huge cohort of women willing to pay to access their contraception more easily. 

Incremental revenue

With delays to the national contraception service, OTC contraception, such as Lovima, provides an effective solution to women – and it’s available now.

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. 

Lovima provides an effective contraception solution for pharmacies, with simple, easy-to-follow supply information and no requirement to dispense or update records and systems.

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. 

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 right now, giving women the choice and ease of access they want.

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