Across Europe, there are different policies regarding access to emergency contraception (EC), which affect the legal status of EC generally as well as which type of emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) are available and how they can be accessed.
Access in the European Union zone
Up until December 2014, women from different countries of the European Union (EU) had varying degrees of access to EC methods. Women in Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Poland needed to visit a health care provider in order to obtain a prescription before purchasing levonorgestrel (LNG) ECPs. In 22 EU countries, women could purchase LNG ECPs in pharmacies, and in some countries, such as the Netherlands, Sweden, and Portugal, women could also purchase LNG ECPs from drugstores and other types of convenient stores. In Malta, LNG ECPs were not (and continue to not be) licensed and were therefore unavailable. In December 2014, in all EU countries except for Malta and Estonia, ulipristal acetate (UPA) ECPs, present on the European market since 2009, were available by prescription-only. Italy was the only EU country that, in addition to a prescription, required a mandatory pregnancy test before women could obtain UPA ECPs.
In November 2014, the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommended a change in classification status from prescription to non-prescription for UPA ECPs, meaning that the drug could be obtained without a prescription in the EU. Following the EMA´s assessment, in January 2015, the European Commission issued an implementing decision that UPA ECPs should be available without a prescription, amending the marketing authorisation granted in 2009 for UPA ECPs.
While the European Commission’s decision is not legally binding and does not create new obligations to the EU Member States with regards to EC accessibility, in most EU countries, the decision is being followed, and UPA ECPs are available directly in the pharmacies or are in the process of becoming available. At the end of November 2015, the situation regarding ECPs in the EU was the following:
- UPA ECPs are available without prescription in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Age restrictions have been set in at least 3 countries: Croatia and Italy (for women younger than 18) and Poland (for women younger than 15).
- In the Baltic subregion, the new marketing authorisation is being processed in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and UPA ECPs are expected to be available by 2016.
- In Hungary, in January 2015, the government decided that because of patient safety considerations, it will continue to require prescriptions for all types of EC.
- In Malta, LNG ECPs and UPA ECPs are not registered or available.
- LNG ECPs remain a prescription drug in Hungary and Poland. In Croatia and Italy since October 2015, at least one brand of LNG ECPs is registered as prescription- free products.
Information on EC access outside of the European Union zone will be published soon.
For more information on EC access in specific countries or about specific EC pill brands, please visit the Country-by-Country Information page on this website, or the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception’s Status & Availability Database by clicking here.
The above information is based on surveys carried out by ECEC since April 2012 and updated in 2015. If any of the above information has changed or if you have more information to share about your particular country, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last update: November 2015