Doctors and pharmacists must step up to help women access abortion pill

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – Mifegymiso was approved in Canada two years ago, but women are still having trouble getting prescriptions for it and finding pharmacies that dispense it.
Aug. 24, 2017.   By STAR EDITORIAL BOARD

Now that the abortion pill, Mifegymiso, has been approved in Canada and its $300 cost is being covered by the Ontario government, you would think it would be easy for women to access it.

But you’d be mistaken.

Disturbingly, Catherine Macnab, executive director of Planned Parenthood Ottawa, estimates there are only 12 places in the province where women can be referred to get a prescription for the pill. Other than that, access to it is completely — and wrongly — ad hoc.

What’s the holdup? As the Star’s Sammy Hudes reports, only 1,800 Ontario physicians and pharmacists have taken, or are registered to take, the five-to-six hour course that is recommended by Health Canada to prescribe or dispense the pill.

Considering there are nearly 30,000 practising physicians and 15,700 pharmacists in the province, it’s disturbing that so few have taken the course.

After all, one woman in three in Canada will have an abortion in her lifetime. It’s imperative that a woman has the option of a non-surgical one if that’s what she and her doctor decides is best.

The first step toward that goal is for doctors and pharmacists to take the online course offered by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. It’s not only the right thing to do, in the case of doctors it’s the sensible thing. Physicians, after all, earn credits from taking it that count toward the continuing education they are required to complete each year.

At the same time, medical schools should make it a standard part of their training so no doctors graduate without knowing how to prescribe Mifegymiso.

There are other roadblocks preventing women from accessing the drug.

For one, they must have an ultrasound before the drug can be prescribed. That is because ectopic pregnancies (ones outside the uterus) cannot be confirmed without an ultrasound and use of the drug on an ectopic pregnancy could be fatal.

While ultrasounds are easy enough for women in cities to access, those in rural communities must travel to get one. Making ultrasound clinics more accessible in rural areas should be a priority for Health Minister Eric Hoskins.

Second, there is confusion over how women can pick up the drug.

Health Canada insists that women get the drug from their doctors rather than directly from pharmacists. That means the doctor must stock it, or the drug must be sent to the doctor’s office by a pharmacist.

Still, the Ontario College of Pharmacists insists its members can legally dispense the drug directly to patients who have a prescription from their doctors.

In other words, confusion reigns over how women can access a drug that Health Canada approved for use in this country a full two years ago.

That’s plain wrong. Health Canada, the province and doctors and pharmacists must work together to clear away the obstacles preventing women from accessing this legal drug. Anything less is unacceptable.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2017/08/24/doctors-and-pharmacists-must-step-up-to-help-women-access-abortion-pill-editorial.html

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