It’s important to understand the distinction between pharmacy-only medicines (P) and over-the-counter, or general-sale medicines. General sales medicines can be found by searching on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
Even though you can access pharmacy-only medication at a counter, a pharmacist still has to ask some questions about your health to make sure what they issue is suitable. When it comes to general sale medication (OTC medication), these rules don’t apply. You can buy them ‘no questions asked.’
Until recently, all oral contraceptives were prescription-only medications (POM) in the UK.
However, in 2021 it was announced that certain mini pills (ones that contain just progesterone) would be available to purchase as pharmacy-only medications.
It remains to be seen whether similar changes will ever be introduced in Australia.
What contraceptive pills don’t need a prescription?
At the time of writing, two mini pills are currently approved as pharmacy-only medications in the UK, which are Lovima and Hana. You can’t buy other pills, like Cerazette, for example, over-the-counter. Being pharmacy-only medications, you don’t need a prescription to buy either Lovima or Hana. But a pharmacist will still need to perform a quick consultation to ensure they’re safe and suitable.
In Australia, both the pill and the mini-pill require a prescription. A clinician can advise you about which contraceptive pill is best suited to you.
What birth control do I need a prescription for?
Hormonal contraception is prescription-only in Australia. This means all combined pills, the contraceptive ring and the majority of mini pills will require a prescription.
But you can buy non-hormonal methods of contraception, such as condoms, over the counter in all Australian pharmacies.
Can you buy the contraceptive ring or patch over the counter?
The contraceptive ring requires a prescription. It contains two synthetic female hormones to help prevent pregnancy. Because of this, and because of the potential for side effects, you’ll need to have a consultation with a doctor or prescriber before they can issue a prescription.
Nuvaring is the only type of contraceptive ring currently used in Australia. A doctor or nurse will need to demonstrate how to use the contraceptive ring the first time you use it. After this, it can be self-applied.
Birth control patches aren’t widely available, and other treatments are usually recommended.
Contraceptive injections, implants, hormonal intrauterine devices (HIDs) and diaphragms are some of the options a clinician can advise you about, and others are also available.
Can pharmacists prescribe birth control?
In Australia, pharmacists aren’t currently able to prescribe birth control. This may change in the future, as the Pharmacy Board of Australia are continuing to push for pharmacists to be given the authority to do so. This means that for now, you’ll need your contraceptive pills to be prescribed by a doctor.
Since 2006, certain medical professionals who are not doctors have been allowed to prescribe medication in the UK. Nurses, pharmacists, dentists and certain other medical professionals can train and register as independent prescribers.