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Pharmacoeconomics. 2019 May 9. doi: 10.1007/s40273-019-00804-6. [Epub ahead of print]

Is Reclassification of the Oral Contraceptive Pill from Prescription to Pharmacist-Only Cost Effective? Application of an Economic Evaluation Approach to Regulatory Decisions.

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Centre for the Health Economy, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, 2109, Australia.
Centre for the Health Economy, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, 2109, Australia.
School of Pharmacy, University of Auckland, Auckland, 1023, New Zealand.
Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, 2109, Australia.



Unplanned pregnancies can lead to poorer maternal and child health outcomes. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration committee rejected reclassifying a range of oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) from prescription to pharmacist-only medicines in 2015, mainly based on safety concerns. Improving access to OCPs may encourage some women to use contraceptives or switch from other contraceptive methods. However, some adverse events may increase and some women may stop using condoms, increasing their risk of sexually transmitted infections. This study aimed to estimate the cost effectiveness of reclassifying OCPs from prescription to pharmacist-only.


Healthcare system.


Australian primary care.


A Markov model was used to synthesise data from a variety of sources. The model included all Australian women aged 15-49 years (N = 5,644,701). The time horizon was 35 years. Contraceptive use before reclassification was estimated using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, while survey data informed use after reclassification. Health outcomes included pregnancies, pregnancy outcomes (live birth, miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy and abortion), sexually transmitted infections, adverse events (venous thromboembolism, depression, myocardial infarction and stroke), ovarian cancer cases and quality-adjusted life-years. Costs included those related to general practitioner and specialist consultations, contraceptives and other medicines, pharmacist time, hospitalisations and adverse events. All costs were reported in 2016 Australian Dollars. A 5% discount rate was applied to health outcomes and costs.


Reclassifying OCPs resulted in 85.70 million quality-adjusted life-years experienced and costs of $46,910.14 million over 35 years, vs. 85.68 million quality-adjusted life-years experienced and costs of $50,274.95 million with OCPs remaining prescription-only. Thus, reclassifying OCPs was more effective and cost saving. However, a sensitivity analysis found that more research on the probability of pregnancy in women not using contraception and not trying to conceive is needed.


Reclassifying OCPs is likely to be considered cost effective by Australian decision makers.


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