EC news from Italy

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, herehere, and here (in Italian) for more information on the campaign and the SMIC.

EC use studies from Barcelona

9 June  2017.  Two studies about EC use in  Barcelona, were recently released. The Catalan health authorities looked at EC users’ profiles and other characteristics in sentinel pharmacies of the province of Barcelona, with the aim of improving the contraception program. This study found that the average age of women buying EC was 28 years old, and 56% of customers have used EC before. In Barcelona, a survey of 3,900 students from 14 to 18 years old was undertaken by Barcelona’s Public Health Agency with the aim of knowing health factors and behaviors of teenagers. With regards to EC usage, the study found that the percentage of EC use increased from 9.3% in 2012 to 23% in 2016 in the 15-16 year old group. In addition, 40% of all 17-18 year old women had taken the EC pill at least once in their life. The survey also showed that there was not any significant difference in EC use because of economic status.

New UK guidelines on EC published

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) of the United Kingdom recently released a new guideline on emergency contraception.

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 the methodology used for developing FSRH Clinical Guidelines. Part of the review process included a month-long open call for public consultation on the draft of the guideline. FSRH used a participatory and transparent process in updating the document and welcomed feedback from those outside of their organization.

We recommend that you access the guideline directly from the FSRH website (here) to ensure that you have the most up-to-date version.

Poland: government threat to restrict EC access

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.

For more information read the Astra Network website.

Every Hour Matters campaign resources for post-rape care

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.”

Awareness and knowledge regarding EC in Berlin adolescents

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.

Polish government works to limit access to EC

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.

Contraception atlas for Europe released

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.

New EC tools from Switzerland

In March 2016, pharmaSuisse and IENK (groupe interdisciplinaire d’experts/es en contraception d’urgence) published tools to facilitate EC counseling and provision among health care professionals, such as pharmacists and family planning staff. These tools, including a flow-chart (seen at right), are available in French, German, and Italian and can be accessed through the box on the right-hand side of the page.

Abortion rate drops in Italy

According to a report published by the Italian Ministry of Health (available in English)the abortion rate in Italy dropped by 9,3% in 2015. In April 2015, the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) eliminated the mandatory prescription requirement for UPA EC pills for women older than 18, and in October 2015, AIFA eliminated the mandatory prescription requirement for LNG EC pills as well. This news piece (in Italian) suggests at least a partial connection between the decrease in the abortion rate and the greater access to EC pills.