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Drug Saf. 1995 Dec;13(6):333-7.

Safety implications of transferring the oral contraceptive from prescription-only to over-the-counter status.

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  • 1School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, USA.


The idea of making oral contraceptives available without prescription has a long history, and has been recently revived in the US and the UK. High dose oral contraceptives have generally been replaced by low dose formulations and, subsequently, most cardiovascular risks have been reduced and a protection against ovarian and uterine cancers has been consistently demonstrated. Oral contraceptive compliance, however, continues to be a problem, but there is no reason to assume that wise practice would be any more or less if oral contraceptives were available over-the-counter (OTC). Some countries have introduced alternatives to prescription-only oral contraceptives, whereby nurses, midwives, social workers and/or pharmacists are incorporated into the distribution process. This article concludes that the balance of risks and benefits is in favour of OTC access for oral contraceptives.

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