February 1, 2013 — Unlike the U.S., most countries do not require women to obtain prescriptions to acquire oral contraceptives, according to a recent study by researchers from Ibis Reproductive Health. The findings are based on the researchers' surveys of government health officials, drugmakers, family planning groups, health care providers and other experts in 147 countries (Grens, Reuters, 1/2).
The researchers identified "geographic and socioeconomic patterns" in countries' prescription requirements, noting that over-the-counter availability is most common in low- and middle-income countries.
However, they also noted that policymakers in several higher-incomes countries -- such as Australia and England -- have taken steps toward allowing pharmacists to prescribe oral contraceptives or dispense them without a prescription (Grossman et al., "Prescription Requirements and Over-the-Counter Access to Oral Contraceptives: A Global Review," Contraception, 12/10/12).
Lead study author Daniel Grossman acknowledged that the study likely will not influence policy regarding the debate about easing prescription requirements for birth control in the U.S., but he added that "it helps to put it in perspective that [nonprescription access] is not something revolutionary" (Reuters, 1/2).