July 2017. The British health retailer Superdrug (the second largest chain in the United Kingdom) announced on June 27th the sell of a generic levonorgestrel (LNG) emergency contraceptive pill, at less than half the price of the currently branded EC pills. Ezinelle will be sold at around 15,30 €, while currently the rest of LNG brands cost around 42 €.
In 2016, ECEC analysed the differences in the price being paid for EC pills when procured directly from pharmacies, across European Union countries. The highest prices were found in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where women pay over 40 € for levonorgestrel EC pills, and the lowest in France, at 7 € for the exact same product. Based on this data, the NGO British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas), launched the Just Say Non campaign, to demand more affordable prices.
Congratulations to Bpas for the smart and fruitful campaign and for making EC more accessible to all women in the United Kingdom. More news from British media outlets here, here and here.
June 2017. On June 23rd President Andrzej Duda finally signed the bill proposed by the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), which will change the status of the only EC pill currently available without prescription in Poland (EC with ulipristal acetate, sold under the brand name ellaOne).
The so called “Act of 25th May 2017 on the change in the Act on medical services financed from a state budget and some other acts” will enter into effect 30 days after signature (end of July). You can read more about the process in ASTRA’s website.
The Polish government has made an important legislative effort, investing a lot of time and public resources, to restrict access to a safe and effective contraceptive; to a drug that allows women and couples to have more control over their bodies and lives; to a drug that helps women realize their rights to health and life. We need to continue educating about emergency contraception, dispelling myths and misconceptions, and strive to ensure sure that EC programs and policies are based on evidence. We have a lot of work to do.
June 2017. A new survey and a web discussion have provided new data about whether and how Italian women’s awareness of and access to EC has changed following the availability of UPA EC without a prescription in 2015. According to this data, 90% of the women consulted consider EC useful and 91% think it is effective; but on the other hand, 54% think EC pills may be dangerous and only 20% know that the EC pills can be purchased without a prescription. Furthermore, only 2 out of 100 women know the basic differences between UPA and LNG EC pills, which may indicate a sever lack of awareness of their postcoital contraception choices. Doctors in Italy are asking the Ministry of Health to add EC to the list of drugs that are mandatory to have at a pharmacy as a means of preventing abortion. Please see here (in Italian and English) and here (in Italian) for more.
In order to raise awareness among the younger population, the Italian Medical Society for Contraception (SMIC) held a poster competition among students from various artistic high schools in Rome and Milan. The posters had to bring attention to different forms of contraception, including EC. The winning poster, seen at right, is titled “IL LATTICE CHE CI PIACE,” which translates to “The Latex That We Like” (condoms), and at the end of the poster is the text “And if the condom breaks? Remember: There is the pill of the next day,” referring to EC. The poster will be distributed to clubs and other youth-gathering sites throughout the summer. Please see here, here, here, and here (in Italian) for more information on the campaign and the SMIC.
This new guideline, which includes recommendations on LNG and UPA EC pills as well as on the use of IUD for EC, has been developed by the FSRH and brings together evidence and expert opinion on the provision of EC to women following unprotected or inadequately protected sexual intercourse. The guideline was developed with a team of experts in the relevant fields and has been extensively peer reviewed in accordance with methodology used for developing FSRH Clinical Guidelines. Part of their review process included a month-long open call for public consultation on the draft of their guideline. FSRH used a participatory and transparent process in updating their document and welcomed feedback from those outside of their organization.
May 29 2017. Since mid 2015, and upon recommendation from the European Medicines Agency, EC pills with ulipristal acetate can be bought without prescription from pharmacies in Poland and everywhere else in the European Union except for Hungary.
On May 25th, however, Members of Parliament in Poland voted in favor of a new bill which proposes, among other restrictions, to reinstate mandatory prescription to buy ulipristal acetate EC pills. Women’s reproductive rights are at stake again.
Together for Girls, along with partners PAHO, WHO, UN Women, Women Deliver, Save the Children USA, Care International, Child Helpline International, Jhpiego, SafeTrek, BD, and Cummins & Partners developed new Every Hour Matters campaign resources.
The Every Hour Matters campaign aims to increase awareness about the critical importance of quickly accessing post-rape care. The resources are available here in English, Spanish, French, and Swahili. Included among the resources is “Every Hour Matters After Rape,” an infographic on emergency contraception and post-exposure prophylaxis; “A Call for Post-Rape Care;” “What National Leaders Need to Know about Post-Rape Care;” “Key Considerations for Creating a National Post-Rape Care Campaign;” and “Resources for Post-Rape Care.”
A study published in The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care assessed awareness and knowledge of EC among adolescents in Berlin, Germany. The authors conducted a cross-sectional survey among ninth graders in a convenience sample of 13 Berlin schools in which they assessed perceived and actual knowledge on the effectiveness, timeframe, and availability of EC and on pregnancy risk in six scenarios. A total of 1177 students between 13 and 16 years of age participated in the study, and the authors found that 8.7% had never heard of EC, 38.6% knew of its effectiveness, but only 12.7% knew of the timeframe for EC. Of the sources of EC, only gynaecologists were widely known, and attending a school of lower academic standard and being of immigrant background was associated with lower knowledge on the majority of items. The authors conclude that generally, students were aware of the existence of EC, but many lacked the knowledge of when to take it and how to access it. See the citation below for more information:
Awareness and knowledge regarding emergency contraception in Berlin adolescents. Frederik T. von Rosen, Antonella J. von Rosen, Falk Müller-Riemenschneider, and Peter Tinnemann. The European Journal Of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care, Vol. 22, Iss. 1, 2017.
The ASTRA Network has informed us that in mid-February 2017, the Polish Government announced that it accepted a project proposing to restrict access to the only ECP available over the counter (UPA ECP). This project is to be discussed in plenary and voted upon in the next session of the Sejm, possibly as early as March. UPA ECP has been available in Polish pharmacies without a prescription since April 2015. The planned restrictions would greatly impede the lives of women and girls, contribute to the sales of this product from unsafe sources, and cause a rise in the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions in a country where access to safe and legal abortions is already incredibly difficult. For more information, please read this article.
ASTRA, together with ASTRA Youth, You Act, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, and ECEC, sent a letter on December 1, 2016 to the representatives of the European Commission to voice their concern on the current developments in Poland with regards to women and girls’ reproductive health and rights. That letter was resent following the project proposal to restrict access to UPA ECP and is available here.
In February 2017, the European Parliamentary Forum on Population & Development launched the ContraceptionAtlas, a map scoring 45 European countries on access to modern contraception. Included among the examined factors are number of contraceptives available, what sort of information is available online, level of reimbursement, and availability of emergency contraception. According to the atlas, France is number one in access to modern contraception, followed by the United Kingdom and Belgium. For further information on this initiative, please visit here.