EC OTC in OZ

Update: fixed typos and relocated the Extended Entry into the main text.

Here’s some more good news on the Emergency Contraception front: while the FDA process has advanced to the point where EC will probably be available over-the-counter sometime or another soon, Australia is quickly moving one step ahead of the United States: Emergency Contraception is set to become available over-the-counter in Australia tomorrow, January 1.

This isn’t to say that Australia’s EC situation is advanced over that of the United States in every respect. One major difference is that whereas the medical community in America largely supports the FDA’s move towards OTC availability, the medical community in Australia is at best nervous about the move, and in some cases directly opposed. The main issue for them, though, seems not to be the sort of religious Kulturkampf that flares around the American side of the debate. Rather, Australian doctors just seem to be more accustomed than American doctors to controlling the medical lives of their patients, and more jealous at giving up that power. For example, consider this Foucaultian bit of paternalism:

But Australian Medical Association president Bill Glasson said he was concerned that pharmacists were not legally required to record a woman’s visit.

I think that they really need to rediscuss how it is going to operate in the interest of good medical care, Dr Glasson said.

The pharmaceutical society’s national president, Jay Hooper, said many pharmacists would take it upon themselves to record each time a woman wanted the pill.

Not that American doctors don’t also sometimes engage in this tracking and scummy hectoring. At the Auburn University Student Health Center, for example, you could obtain EC—but they’d note when you got it, throw a bunch of red tape in your way, and if I recall correctly, they’d only let you have it once a semester. (The idea in both cases is for doctors to be able to lecture women that they decide are making unhealthy lifestyle choices. I am all for encouraging women to make healthy lifestyle choices, but I can’t imagine that an emergency situation to prevent a pregnancy is the appropriate time to do it, or that forcing women to listen by restricting access to EC until you’re done lecturing them is the appropriate way to go about it.) But the American medical community does not seem particularly squeamish about giving up that control if it means that women are more able to prevent unwanted pregnancies: the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both lobbied for, and strongly supported, the FDA advisory panels’ decision. In Australia, however, the Australian Medical Association seems nervous and is ready to develop their own house guidelines to try to minimize the freedom it will offer women.

I don’t think, incidentally, that the attitude is a matter of misogyny, exactly. But it is directly connected to patriarchy—it’s a matter of the authoritarian sense of entitlement that modern doctors have always felt and acted out vis-a-vis their patients. The condition exists in Australia and America both, but with regard to over-the-counter pills the Australian medical community seems to have divorced itself from it less than their American counterparts. Consider: at the same time as EC becomes available over the counter for the first time in Australia, so will ibuprofen. And this has caused no small degree of consternation for the Australian Medical Association:

Also from Thursday stronger pain relief medication will be available in supermarkets, a move that has angered and confused doctors and pharmacists. Dr Glasson said the pain killer ibuprofen, contained in products including Nurofen, should only be sold under the supervision of pharmacists. It’s a dangerous move and it’s a backward step.

Patients have to look at the medical aspects of these drugs and get good advice that only the friendly pharmacist can give. Paracetamol is much kinder on the stomach.

Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug, was only available in pharmacies until the Government ratified the new regulations in October.

Products containing ibuprofen have been available in supermarkets in the US since 1984 and in Britain since 1996.

The teeming masses of Ozzies will now be able to buy Advil without a doctor’s learned advice! O tempora! O mores!

But however the doctors and pharmacists may whine, the women of Australia have every reason to celebrate. A happy New Year’s to the reproductive rights community in Australia — good show!

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  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2014-07-06 – OC OTC:

    […] GT 2003-12-31: EC OTC in Oz […]

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