In this article, published in Medical Republic, AFMW President, Associate Professor Magdalena Simonis provides comment on the TGA’s decision to down-schedule the OCP and permit pharmacist issuance.
The World Health Organisation recommends LARCs as first-line contraception for young women as they are safe, effective and reversible. There are now multiple studies which agree that longer acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) are likely to reduce the rates of unwanted pregnancy, and may offer a more suitable contraceptive option for younger women. Only around 11% of Australian women use LARCs, which is a lower rate than many OECD nations.
Pharmacists have no capacity to advise patients on LARCs, prescribe them or administer them. It is through GPs that women and can obtain this information and have then make the arrangements to have them inserted. LARCs are the gold standard in contraception now, and permitting pharmacists prescribe low-dose contraceptives means that with every prescription this important conversation with our patients about contraceptive options, is being missed. GPs also use these types of consults to suggest urine screening tests for chlamydia and prompt conversations about pelvic pain, menstrual disorders and irregular bleeding.
We now have the first ever national guidelines on endometriosis and we know that up to 15% of women may be experiencing symptoms but are not detected until at least 8 years have elapsed, so seeing the GP for their contraception needs, provides the opportunity to have this important conversation with young women. The changes to OCP prescribing means preventative activities GPs engage in, will be missed.
Associate Professor Magdalena Simonis AM is the President of the AFMW (2020-) and former President of VMWS (2013 & 2017-2020). She is a full time clinician who also holds positions on several not for profit organisations, driven by her passion for bridging gaps across the health sector. She is a leading women’s health expert, keynote speaker, climate change and gender equity advocate and government advisor.
Magdalena was awarded a lifetime membership of the RACGP for her contributions which include past chair of Women in General Practice, longstanding contribution to the RACGP Expert Committee Quality Care, the RACGP eHealth Expert Committee. She is regularly invited to comment on primary care research though mainstream and medical media and contributes articles on various health issues through newsGP and other publications.
Magdalena has represented the RACGP at senate enquiries and has worked on several National Health Framework reviews. She is author of the RACGP Guide on Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery and co-reviewer of the RACGP Red Book Women’s Health Chapter, and reviewer of the RACGP White book
Both an RACGP examiner and University examiner, she undertakes general practice research and is a GP Educator with the Safer Families Centre of Research Excellence, which develops education tools to assist the primary care sector identify, respond to and manage family violence . Roles outside of RACGP include the Strategy and Policy Committee for Breast Cancer Network Australia, Board Director of the Melbourne University Teaching Health Clinics and the elected GP representative to the AMA Federal Council. In 2022. she was award the AMA (Vic) Patrick Pritzwald-Steggman Award 2022, which celebrates a doctor who has made an exceptional contribution to the wellbeing of their colleagues and the community and was listed as Women’s Agenda 2022 finalist for Emerging Leader in Health.
Magdalena has presented at the United Nations as part of the Australian Assembly and was appointed the Australian representative to the World Health Organisation, World Assembly on COVID 19, by the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA) in 2021. In 2023, A/Professor Simonis was included on the King’s COVID-19 Champion’s list and was also awarded a Member (AM) in the General Division for significant service to medicine through a range of roles and to women’s health.