Pharmacy teams play an important role in providing emergency hormonal contraception (EHC)… in line with the latest guidelines of course. Emma Marsh explains…


The provision of EHC is an important service that is delivered by pharmacy within the community. Yet it is imperative that pharmacists and their teams understand the important role they play in its effective and consistent provision in line with the latest guidance from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH).
While the copper intrauterine device (Cu-IUD) is recognised as the most effective method of emergency contraception overall, research reveals that in practice, 95% of women are issued the morning-after pill when accessing EHC.
Pharmacy is the first port of call for EHC for the majority of women (77%) where the IUD is not immediately available. In such instances, ellaOne (ulipristal acetate) is recognised to be the most effective oral EHC option available.
The latest national EC guidance from the FSRH recommends advising all women that ulipristal acetate has been demonstrated to be more effective than levonorgestrel and should be considered as the first line oral EHC for women.
Pharmacists can ensure they are up to date with the latest changes to the guidance by accessing HRA Pharma’s online free CPD module. Accessing EHC can often be uncomfortable for women but pharmacy team members can ensure women feel supported and not judged by being a familiar and friendly face within the community.
Indeed, the latest research from HRA Pharma has revealed that a third (31%) of females feel embarrassed to ask for the morning-after pill and a quarter (26%) say that they would wait until there were no other customers around to ask for it.
However, when pharmacy staff are as approachable as possible, both parties get the most out of consultations which can increase the likelihood of customers returning for further advice and support from the pharmacy in future.
Pharmacists should be clear on their role in helping women with their sexual health needs by ensuring that clear signposting is in place to help women about the services available in-store – including EHC.
Women can find asking for EHC embarrassing and by clearly signposting availability of this service, it will reassure them that they have come to the right place.
Pharmacy teams should also ensure EHC is placed on visible display on the back wall so that women can easily see it is readily available and remain objective yet understanding and offer women the opportunity to speak privately in the consultation room if they wish.
The expertise offered by pharmacy teams means that through the consultation process, teams can inform and educate women about the different emergency contraception methods available, communicating each one’s efficacy, side effects and possible drug interactions.
This ensures women are educated about the different options available and have all the information they need before making a decision that suits them. For example, in terms of efficacy, ellaOne is 2.5 times more effective than levonorgestrel.
Indeed, ellaOne recently launched a campaign called ‘Morning After Manners’ which aims to help break down the stigma often associated with the topic of emergency contraception.
The ‘Morning After Manners’ campaign opens up the conversation about sex, relationships and modern dating etiquette, particularly focusing on how to behave the morning after a contraceptive mishap has taken place.
Whether individuals are single, dating or in long-term relationships, ‘Morning After Manners’ encourages them to discuss the topic of contraception and emergency contraception with their partner. The campaign also educates consumers about the options available to them after unprotected sex has occurred.


Emma Marsh is the brand manager at HRA Pharma (UK & Ireland), manufacturers of ellaOne (ulipristal acetate).

• Procter & Gamble UK, with its Always and Tampax brands, maintained its lead in sanitary protection in 2017. Second was Essity, with its Bodyform which recorded dynamic value growth due to product innovation.

Source: Euromonitor