Boots begins providing emergency contraception
Boots Ireland pharmacies yesterday began providing emergency contraception services in their pharmacies across the country, including two in Letterkenny.
The new service is offered under a patient group direction that allows Boots pharmacists to provide a range of clinical services, including the flu vaccination service that the chemist recently introduced.
"This emergency contraception service has been introduced as part of Boots' objective to provide responsible, accessible and affordable healthcare to its customers," said Mary Rose Burke, chief pharmacist of Boots Ireland.
The service at Boots includes a one-to-one consultation with a Boots pharmacist, provision of the medicine and advice on long-term contraception and health care, at a cost of 45 euro.
Emergency contraception has been licensed for use in Ireland since late 2001 but until now a doctor's prescription was required.
Boots Ireland chief pharmacist said it will be about three months before they can identify trends in use. "Whether one woman or 100 women need the service we feel it is useful and makes an existing service more accessible to women," she said.
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) welcomed the news. "The IFPA has advocated for improved access to emergency contraceptive pills for a number of years because it is more effective the sooner it is taken," said Caitriona Henchion, IFPA medical director. She said emergency contraception was directly available from pharmacies in 17 European Union countries.
The emergency contraceptive pill "is a very safe and responsible method of preventing pregnancy," she said.
The IFPA, a Dublin-based organisation with services around the country, has a crisis pregnancy councillor with an office at the Letterkenny Women's Centre.
But Mary Doherty, 2007 Christian Solidarity Party candidate for Donegal North-East, said she believed the move will encourage promiscuity.
"How is it freedom to sleep around?" she asked. "Yes we do have a choice but we need to make choices that are for our well-being." Mary said she was the head of the Donegal branch of Renew, a national group that is standing up for the teachings of the Catholic Church.
A Donegal GP contacted for comment said they had no difficulty with the idea of a woman obtaining emergency contraception directly from a pharmacist, as long as pharmacists checked for the same contra-indications that GPs would include in their own examinations.
A Boots spokesperson said their pharmacists have completed in-depth training on all aspects of emergency contraception and other sexual health issues.