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14 July 2021

Women can buy Maxwellia’s Lovima® contraceptive pill from pharmacies for first time in UK history

WOMEN can now buy a contraceptive pill over the counter without a prescription following a consultation with a pharmacist after the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) today granted a licence to Maxwellia’s Lovima®.​

This reclassification of the daily progestogen-only pill is one of the biggest revolutions in women’s health in the 60 years since the pill was first launched in the UK,(i) finally putting more women even more in charge of their daily contraception by widening access.​

For the first time, this game-changing decision allows women to buy Lovima® – a daily progestogen-only pill which contains desogestrel 75mcg – over the counter from a local British high street or supermarket pharmacy without needing a prescription from a doctor or sexual health clinic.​

The licence was granted following a three week public consultation triggered by a reclassification request spearheaded by Maxwellia, a pioneering, British pharma company. The move has been welcomed by women's health organisations including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) which have been campaigning tirelessly to make the progestogen-only pill available without prescription at pharmacies to improve contraception access for women.

Figures show more than a third of women are unable to access contraception services and half of all UK pregnancies are unplanned, costing the NHS around £240 million each year.(ii) Women spend 30 years of their lives on average trying to avoid an unplanned pregnancy(ii) and the UK still has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe, with rates up to five times higher than some other countries.

Dr Diana Mansour, a Vice-President of the FSRH and a Consultant in Community Gynaecology and Reproductive Health Care at New Croft Centre in Newcastle, says: "We welcome this decision – it's a positive step for both women and healthcare professionals. The progestogen-only pill is an effective form of oral contraception trusted by millions of women. Close medical monitoring is not required with this pill and so it is perfectly acceptable to delegate this responsibility to qualified pharmacists, improving contraception access for those women who wish to pay for their progestogen-only pill and free up GP, community contraception and sexual health service appointments for more complex work.”

The decision comes as new research commissioned by Lovima® found that almost three quarters (70%) of women who have used contraception agree the contraceptive pill should be easier to get hold of and more widely available. The survey, which questioned 1,009 women in the UK aged 18-55, also found that nearly half (48%) would be deterred from getting contraception because it's difficult or too time consuming or because it's inconvenient to get a GP or sexual health clinic appointment. Nearly half (44%) said they would be willing to pay to get the contraception they need more quickly and easily.

Two thirds (67%) of 18 to 24-year-olds surveyed who have used contraception admit having had difficulty getting hold of it, with a third (29%) having less predictable periods, one in five (21%) left feeling anxious, 16% having more risks with their sexual health, 14% having had a pregnancy scare and 11% having to get the morning after pill.

Maxwellia founder and CEO, Anna Maxwell, a registered pharmacist, says: “This decision is game-changing for many women who, for the first time in history, can now buy this form of oral contraception from their local pharmacy. It is clear that the limited and restricted way women can currently access contraception isn’t working for many of them. When the contraceptive pill was first made available in the UK 60 years ago this year, doctors were only allowed to prescribe it to married women. This is 2021. We have liberated this pill Lovima®, containing desogestrel 75mcg, from prescription status, so women can live the lifestyle they want, be in charge of their body and decide when or if they have a baby – and that includes choosing to buy Lovima® following a consultation with their pharmacist.”

Supporting the decision, Dr Anne Connolly, GP and Chair of the Primary Care Women’s Health Forum, says: “We have been lobbying for this licence change for many years and are pleased it has finally happened. Providing greater access to effective contraception is so important in today’s society. Pharmacists are more than qualified to help women make the decision about whether the progestogen only pill is the right form of contraception for them but have been a highly underutilised contraceptive service resource until now. Recognising the important role pharmacists should play in our primary care service provision has always been important but never more than now during the COVID-19 pandemic.”​

Royal Pharmaceutical Society Director of Pharmacy Robbie Turner says: "The Royal Pharmaceutical Society welcomes the MHRA's decision to allow a progestogen-only contraceptive pill to be provided directly to women by pharmacists without the need for a prescription. This move will increase access to an effective method of contraception and enable women to make an informed choice about their needs after discussion with a pharmacist. Pharmacies already play an important role in provision of contraception and are a convenient, expert source of help and advice."​

Lovima® will be available from UK pharmacies, including Lloyds, from the end of July at a retail price of around £10 per month. Women can get Lovima® from their local pharmacy, following a consultation with their pharmacist. Maxwellia has also developed a checklist online for women to complete beforehand to aid the consultation, found at www.lovima.com. Maxwellia is dedicated to helping break down contraception access barriers faced by women by launching Lovima® into pharmacies and supporting greater sexual health education and awareness.

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