Irish digital pharmacy service Healthwave has announced that oral contraceptive pills are to be made available free of charge.
Offering generic medications to members of its Health Pass scheme, the membership-based service is launching this initiative in response to long-standing calls and recommendations for the State to provide access to free contraception to Irish women.
This comes shortly after a Department of Health committee ruled there was no room in the 2020 Budget for a nationwide free contraception initiative.
The Minister for Health has set a 2021 date for the initiative to give time for regulatory and policy issues to be addressed and legislation to be drafted and enacted.
Until then, Healthwave has announced that they will offer the generic versions of six of the most commonly prescribed contraceptive pill medications in Ireland, at no cost to Healthwave members with valid prescriptions.
Those six are Cerazette, Yasminelle, Yasmin, Ovranette, Cilest and Microlite.
The oral contraceptive pill is the most commonly used form of female contraception in Ireland. Although the sale of contraceptives is now legal in Ireland, accessibility still creates unnecessary barriers.
Unlike in some EU countries where birth control is subsidised or free, contraceptives in the Republic come at a cost that may further exclude young and/or disadvantaged women from access.
In some cases, for those who qualify for Drugs Payment Schemes, the pill itself may be affordable but the regular GP visits required to obtain prescriptions may not be.
Free contraception was originally proposed by the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment, and the Government pledged to provide it as part of measures to reduce crisis pregnancies.
Generic contraceptive pills cost somewhere within the range of €5 and €10 per pack. According to Healthwave, annual savings for every woman availing of their scheme will be in the region of €50.
The service will also allegedly provide for alternative forms of contraception other than the pill, which while are not available for free within the current initiative, will be considered for future schemes.
“Our goal at Healthwave is to simplify access to medications," said Catherine McNicholas, Director of pharmacy services at Healthwave.
"We are delighted to be the first pharmacy platform to offer a free contraception service and take the lead on this issue. This is a service that makes accessing contraception both easier and affordable for women in Ireland and is one of many exciting initiatives planned for our members."