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The following is taken from'Parliamentary References on Reproductive Health'
By Amanda Callaghan
Public Affairs Manager, BPAS

Emergency contraception

Ann Winterton MP asked the Secretary of State for Health what proportion the prescriptions for emergency contraceptive drugs made during 1997-98 he estimates to have prevented unwanted pregnancies.

Yvette Cooper MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health) replied that in 1997, 760,000 prescriptions were issued by general practitioners or family planning clinics for emergency contraceptive pills. Guidance issued in October 1999 by the Faculty of Family Planning states that the overall risk of pregnancy, after a single act of unprotected sex on any day in the menstrual cycle is 2-4 per cent but can be as high as 20-30 per cent in the days before and just after ovulation. These figures are for all ages and include older women whose fertility is declining. An accurate estimate of the number of pregnancies expected without treatment is not possible without the menstrual and coital histories of the women concerned. It is generally understood that use of Schering PC4 (the only hormonal product licensed for emergency contraception use in 1997) prevents 75 per cent of potential pregnancies that would otherwise occur.

Written answer 10 March 2000

Cost of ECPS to the NHS

Ann Winterton MP asked the Secretary of State for Health the cost to the NHS of emergency contraceptive drugs in each of the years 1990 to 1997.

Yvette Cooper MP provided the answers in two tables:

Table 1:The number of prescriptions and the net ingredient cost of emergency contraceptive drug (Schering PC4), prescribed in the community 1990 to 1997 England.

Number Net ingredient £

000s £000
1990 189.6 274.5
1991 232.8 337.5
1992 272.2 391.8
1993 313.3 450.8
1994 363.8 520.8
1995 475.4 678.5
1996 565.6 900.2
1997 552.8 897.7


1 The prescription information was obtained from the Prescription Cost Analysis (PCA) system. Please note that the data are not strictly consistent with data from 1991 onwards. Figures for 1990 are based on fees and on a sample of 1 in 200 prescriptions dispensed by community pharmacists and appliance contractors only. Figures for 1991 onwards are based on items and
cover all prescriptions dispensed by community pharmacists, appliance contractors, dispensing doctors and prescriptions submitted by prescribing doctors for items personally administered. The data do not cover drugs dispensed in hospital, family planning clinics or on private prescription.

2 The net prescribing cost (NIC) is the basic cost of a drug and does not take account of discounts, dispensing costs, fees or prescription charges income.

Table 2:Occasions on which hormonal emergency contraceptives prescribed by family planning clinics and the net ingredient cost, 1990-1997 England

Number Net ingredient £ (assumed)

000s £000
1990 45.5 63.7
1991 63.0 88.2
1992 76.7 107.4
1993 92.2 129.10
1994 112.1 156.9
1995 157.6 220.6
1996 193.7 271.2
1997 205.1 287.1

Costs are calculated using the assumption that the cost of hormonal emergency contraceptives used in family planning clinics is the same as that for Schering PC4 prescribed in the community.

Source KT31 Dept of Health statistics division SD2B

Written answer 15 March 2000

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