UK: obtaining EC still isn’t as easy as it should be

July 2020. A mystery shopper study recently published in the BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health (PMID:32554399Full text) explores the standard of care around accessing EC from community pharmacies in the United Kingdom. The study concludes that while availability of EC from pharmacies has improved access, the need to have a consultation with a pharmacist introduces delays; around one in five of the study mystery shoppers left without getting EC. This conclusion is in line with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist (RCOG) recommendation to reclassify EC pills as a General Sales List product.

Read the full study here.  

Council of Europe: Historic resolution on contraception

June 2020.  The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) just adopted Resolution 2331 (2020) “Empowering women: promoting access to contraception in Europe”.  It is the first time in its history that the parliamentary body of the Council of Europe provides recommendations in a Resolution entirely dedicated to improving access to contraception in Europe. Among others, the resolution calls to remove all types of barriers (geographic, economic and socio-cultural) to modern contraception; to enhance sexuality education that actually educates about contraceptive choices and technologies; and to strengthen contraception research and comparative data collection. 

The declaration also calls for all modern methods of contraception, including emergency contraception without prescription, to be made available to all; and to be considered essential health care services during the current COVID-19 crisis.  

See Resolution 2331 (2020) here.

UK: Access to EC ‘hit by lockdown’

June 2020. The use of emergency contraception (EC) pills dropped in the United Kingdom during the months of lockdown due to COVID-19 crisis. According to news from the BBC and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, direct sales in the pharmacy fell by 50% from March to April. Prescriptions for EC  pills issued by National Health Service (NHS) clinics, declined by around 20%.

Read the BBC report here and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society piece here.

ICEC and FIGO’s EC Medical and Service Delivery Guidance available in French

June 2020. The fourth edition of ICEC and FIGO’s Emergency Contraceptive Pills Medical and Service Delivery Guidance is now available in French. “Pilules contraceptives d’urgence. Directives médicales et de prestation de services”, originally published in English in December 2018, serves as a key reference and training document for service provision of EC.  The French edition of this guidance as been possible thanks to the support of DKT International.

Youth and EC

June 2020. ECEC participated in the webinar organised by FP2020 “Emergency contraception and young people. Your questions answered” on June 16th. These are some of the issues addressed:

·       What are the facts about young people’s use of EC? Does it match our assumptions?

·       Is it safe for young people to use EC frequently? How frequent is too frequent?

·       How can you best balance advocacy for EC with longer acting methods?

The recording can be watched in English and in French.

Ensuring access to EC during COVID-19: Switzerland

June 2020. In the past few months, during the lockdown due to COVID-19, there has been uncertainty about access to abortion, STI testing and emergency contraception (EC). In Switzerland, SANTÉ SEXUELLE SUISSE (the umbrella organization of sexual health centres) called upon its members to continue providing sexual and reproductive health counselling and services during the pandemic. Furthermore, some sexual health centres developed creative approaches to ensure vulnerable populations access during these times.

In the canton of Vaud, Fondation PROFA launched a collaboration with local pharmacies, in order to make sure that EC remained available for women under the age of 20 at a reduced and affordable price in some pharmacies of the region.

According to the project leader, Dr. Catherine Gruillot, this has been an effective approach: «We have had some feedback already and it’s going well. Pharmacies dispense EC within the framework we have set together and we provide clients with a list of pharmacies. Women receive information and counselling by telephone from either a sexual health counsellor or a doctor and she is informed of where to obtain her oral EC. She is offered a follow up appointment at our clinic. This system appears to be working after just a few days of implementation!»

“EC in the COVID-19 era: advance access is more important than ever”

May 2020. The American Society for Emergency Contraception (ASEC) publishes “EC in the COVID-19 era: advance access is more important than ever”. While EC access in the US and most European countries differ (UPA EC pills are still a prescription product in the US) ASEC overall recommendation is still valid in our context: know where you can get EC, and keep it on hand in advance of need.

“EC is an important back-up contraceptive option at any time. This is true more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, when access to ongoing contraception may be limited and efforts are underway to limit access to abortion in some states. Purchasing EC in advance of need can help people maintain autonomy and reduce the risk of pregnancy during this crisis.“

You can check the  availability status of different type of EC pills in your country, in our website:

Protecting sexual and reproductive health and rights during COVID-19. Joint statement

May 14, 2020. On May sixth, 59 countries, including 37 European ones, issued a joint statement highlighting that COVID -19 may negatively impact women’s and girls’ abilities to exercise their sexual rights and reproductive rights. The statement raises the increased risk of gender-based violence, and addresses the need to ensure sexual health and reproductive health services, also in humanitarian settings.  Furthermore, the countries acknowledge the essential role of midwives and nurses to contain the corona virus.

All European Union members (and also the United Kingdom) subscribed the statement, with the exception of Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia.

You can read the full statement here.

A snapshot in time during COVID-19

May 8, 2020. Last April, the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, and the European Network of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, issued Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. The joint report looks at the pandemic’s impact on access to essential SRHR services, and includes recommendations for decision-makers.

With regards to contraception, and among others, the report recommends governments:

  • to adapt their policies, technical guidance and service-delivery models to guarantee access to SRHR during the crisis, by allowing (among others): telemedicine for SRHR consultations and access to contraception (particularly emergency contraception) without prescription; and removing medically unnecessary administrative obstacles.
  • to address immediate needs for reproductive health  commodities and personal protective equipment (PPE) and, in the medium term, engage with UNFPA, RHSC, manufacturers and other global organisations to exchange information on supply chains, manufacturing and transportation so as to anticipate any potential future stock outs.

Downloaded the full document here.

The report is based on surveys conducted from mid-March to mid-April 2020. The authors acknowledge that the situation is dynamic and rapidly changing, and that some situations described in the report may have evolved since it was written, particularly in relation to government reactions.