Oral contraceptive pill to be dispensed over the counter

women cracking open a contraceptive pill Getty
Many women will now be able to skip the doctor's appointment (getty)

New Zealand women will now be able to buy their oral contraceptives over the counter, after medicine regulatory body Medsafe changed the classification of some pills.

The reclassification of the contraceptives from 'prescription' to 'restricted' only applies in specific circumstances. 

Medsafe group manager Chris James says a woman must have been prescribed a similar formulation within the last 3 years and not have developed risk factors which would require medical supervision.

Women who meet the conditions, including being over the age of 16, can be sold up to six months' supply. 

"Women will be encouraged to allow pharmacists to notify their GP that they are getting the oral contraceptive across the pharmacy counter," Mr James says. 

A submission to reclassify selected oral contraceptives was first made to the Medicine Classification Committee in 2014.

Chair Dr Stewart Jessamine says the proposal has been extensively reviewed and a wide range of medical professionals and consumer representatives have been consulted.

"The committee was satisfied that pharmacists could supply oral contraceptives to women who meet the specified criteria with the same levels of safety as other healthcare professionals," she said. 

"The Pharmacy Council and Pharmaceutical Society will be responsible for ensuring pharmacists are appropriately trained to provide oral contraceptives without a prescription to eligible women."

Medsafe says the availability of oral contraceptives from a pharmacy will only begin once pharmacists have been appropriately trained.