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.
Magdalena is the President of the AFMW (2020-) and former President of VMWS (2013 & 2017-2020).
Magdalena’s deep engagements with the RACGP over many years includes chair of Women in General Practice, is currently on the RACGP Expert Committee Quality Care, prior to that on RACGP eHealth Expert Committee. She is a regular media spokesperson on numerous health issues, being interviewed most weeks by mainstream and medical media. Magdalena has represented the RACGP at senate enquiries and has worked on several National Health Framework reviews.
Both an RACGP examiner and University examiner she supervises medical students and undertakes general practice research. Roles outside of RACGP include the Strategy and Policy Committee for Breast Cancer Network Australia, Board Director of Women’s Health Victoria and Chair of their Strategy and Policy subcommittee and the AMA Victoria GP Network Committee.
Magdalena has presented at the United Nations as part of the Australian Assembly and was recently appointed the Australian representative to the World Health Organisation, World Assembly on COVID 19, by the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA).