14 March 2021
By Elaine Murphy
Digital Pharmacy provided over 100,000 free contraceptive pills for women since launch of service in February 2020
Healthwave, a digital pharmacy service founded by Cork man Shane O’Sullivan, has launched Ireland’s first pharmacy-led payment plan for long-term contraceptive methods.
This launch marks the first year of Healthwave’s female-focused initiative that, to date, has provided over 100,000 oral contraceptive pills free of charge to Healthwave members. Currently, over 500 female members of Healthwave digital pharmacy avail of the free oral contraception offer.
There is growing demand amongst women in Ireland for Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) with many women becoming increasingly aware of the benefits. ‘Fit and Forget’ contraceptives (LARCs) are also the most cost-effective form of contraception in the long term but the initial upfront cost of €114 for the implant or coil can be a barrier to access. According to the Irish Family Planning Association, LARCs are 99% effective, removing the risk of forgetting to take oral contraceptive pills, and lasting for 3-5 years.
The LARC payment plan can be paid over 3 instalments of €38 with an easy setup via the Healthwave website.
“Our goal at Healthwave is to simplify access to medications. As the only pharmacy platform to offer a free oral contraception service, we are now seeing the increased demand for LARCs. We are in a position to help women access their preferred form of contraception without the worry of a large upfront payment on top of the insertion fee. We hope our payment plan makes accessing LARC contraception both easier and affordable for women in Ireland and is one of many exciting initiatives planned for our members.” said Catherine McNicholas, Director of pharmacy services at Healthwave.
In 2020, the Department of Health committee ruled there was no room in the Budget for a nationwide free contraception initiative. The Minister for Health had set a 2021 date for the initiative to give time for regulatory and policy issues to be addressed and legislation to be drafted and enacted.
McNicholas continued, “Female health is a key focus for us at Healthwave, with improved access to contraception at the centre. While we advocate strongly for universally free contraception and welcome calls to introduce pharmacist prescribing of progesterone-only pills, we are fully committed to continuing and expanding our original contraception initiative for Irish women.”
The oral contraceptive pill is the most commonly used form of female contraception in Ireland and contains oestrogen and/or progestogen. A prescription for the pill can be obtained from a doctor or a family planning clinic. Generic contraceptive pills cost between €5 and €8 per pack.
Healthwave currently offers the generic versions of six of the most commonly prescribed contraceptive pill medications in Ireland, at no cost to Healthwave members with valid prescriptions, resulting in potential annual savings for every woman availing of the scheme in the region of €50.
Healthwave membership costs €25 per year. Patients can also access contraception through Healthwave without a membership, with a 6 month supply of oral contraception costing €20 or a LARC payment plan of €38 per month for 3 months with free nationwide delivery included.