Contraceptive pills to be available without prescription in Taiwan

People will be able to buy emergency contraception pills, also called “after pills,” at local pharmacies without prescription as early as next year, Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) said Monday.

The agency confirmed it has received an application by a pharmaceutical company for a change of the status of after pills it produces from prescription drugs to non-prescription, and that the review procedures have been launched.

The applicant company was required to present safety data for the drug, an educational plan for pharmacists, and instruction notes of the drug for review by a team of TFDA experts, said Chi Jo-feng (祁若鳳), a senior technical specialist at the TFDA’s Division of Medicinal Products.

While there are several required documents still missing, the application could not be given the green light until next year at the earliest, if everything goes smoothly, Chi said.

Chi revealed that while reviewing the application to change the status of after pills, the TFDA is at the same time considering setting restrictions on the sale of such drugs.

The initially proposed restrictions will include requiring buyers to be 17 years old or older, banning advertisements for the drug; and requiring that each person can only purchase a quantity for one-time use, Chi noted.

She said after pills are taken within 72 hours after a sexual intercourse, and that they act as an emergency contraception measure, instead of “discontinuing pregnancy.”

World Health Organization data indicates after pills is a relatively safe contraception method because they are not for daily use, the specialist said.

The proposal to allow after pills marketed as non-prescription medicine, however, has led to worries by some physicians and civil groups about the possible abuse of the drug, according to a report by the United Daily News (UND).

Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology secretary general Huang Min-chao (黃閔照), who is also an attending physician in obstetrics and gynecology at Mackay Memorial Hospital, was one of the physicians expressing concerns about the possible abuse, the report said.

Huang said once women rely on the drug, their menstrual period could become irregular and they may encounter an increased risk of abnormal hemorrhage.

Moreover, once after pills turn popular, he fears men would become more reluctant in using condoms. Huang warned one possible result could be efforts in the prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections could be hampered.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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