Premier David Eby says 188,000 people picked up free contraceptive prescriptions from pharmacists since the province expanded access to birth control earlier this year.
Broken down, about 123,000 people received hormonal birth control pills and another 30,000 opted for intrauterine devices (IUDs), Eby explained from a North Vancouver pharmacy Friday (Dec. 8). Additionally, 37,000 people also received emergency contraceptives.
Eby said these new measures have relieved pressure on clinics and ERs, while also saving British Columbians hundreds of dollars on contraceptives every year.
Prior to these changes, the Health Ministry said hormonal pills costs as much as $25 a month, or $300 a year, while IUDs had an upfront cost of $400.
B.C. PharmaCare covers the full cost of more than 60 commonly used birth-control methods, including the pill, copper and hormonal IUDs, hormonal injections, a vaginal ring and the morning-after pill.
Health-care workers saw an increased within the first two months of IUDs becoming more readily available, but some criticized the lack of support for practitioners and doctors, who are needed for IUD insertion.
Eby said that since then the province has opened clinics across B.C. that provide people with sexual health support, including IUDs, at no charge. People who are interested can ask their pharmacist for a referral.
He said he knows not everybody has access to a family doctor.
“You don’t have to have a pre-existing relationship, you don’t have to be recruited by a physician and you can bring the IUD that you get from the pharmacist to the clinic, have it inserted and and be on your way.”
It was back on April 1 that B.C. became the first country to make several types of contraception free. Two months later, pharmacists in the province were able to prescribe some forms of birth control as well.
With pharmacists being able to prescribe medications for some minor ailments, such at urinary tract infections, the ministry says more than 132,000 people took advantage of that. Throughout the province, 1,367 pharmacies are participating.
The top three minor ailments that patients have received treatment for are UTIs, allergies and conjunctivitis.