Abortion drugs listed by PBS but not everyone approves Reply

Controversy continues about abortion pills being available on PBS. Photograph by Adam R Hoades

Controversy continues about abortion pills being available on PBS.
Photograph by Adam R Hoades

by Sandra Cobeta 

Pharmacies in the Sydney’s eastern suburbs are closing their doors when it comes to selling Mifepristone and Misoprostol, recently listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to allow women to medically terminate an early pregnancy of up to 49 days. 

The two drugs have been available in medical clinics and hospitals all over Australia since 2006 through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) 

They are an alternative to having a surgical termination of early pregnancy and are offered to women when it is deemed suitable for them. However, when taken in the privacy of their own homes, patients must adhere to the treatment regimen, which includes resting for three to five days, arranging a follow-up visit with a health practitioner and having transportation available to a medical clinic or hospital in the case of an emergency. 

There has always been some controversy surrounding abortion but when both the drugs were listed on the PBS in August, some pharmacists objected to the requirement that they should undergo training so they could receive certification as prescribers. 

Eight pharmacies in Maroubra, Matraville, Hillsdale and Pagewood all declined to have their staff trained to sell the drugs. 

Pharmacist Muriani Wong, of Noel D’Souza Chemist, says,  “I don’t intend to do the training or stock this drug in the pharmacy. I believe that some women need to get the right health care if they want to terminate their pregnancy. I don’t believe doing it at home is safe after reading the TGA’s risks.”

According to the TGA, in 2012 an estimated 22, 500 women bought the abortion drugs from a hospital or registered medical clinic. According to the Australian Public Assessment Reports of October 2, 2012, 132 women ended up with an ongoing pregnancy, 23 required transfusion, 599 had retained products of conception and needed a second abortion, there were 29 infections and 28 women haemorrhaged.

Pharmacist Laura Rianto, of Matraville Pharmacy, says, “These drugs shouldn’t be listed on the PBS.  Other drugs more important could have been chosen instead of these. I don’t intend to do the training and I don’t support these drugs at all.”

Asheeta Selleck, who has had consecutive miscarriages and used both surgical and non-surgical procedures, says, “Being able to take the drugs in the privacy of my own home with the support of my husband is a lot better than being on a hospital bed with a team of doctors and nurses around me.

“They told me the risks prior to taking the drugs, like the fact that I could bleed out, experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue however, I still chose to do it at home and if other women had to go through the same thing, I’d recommend taking the drugs.”

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