The accessibility of contraceptives varies significantly from country to country. Because unintended pregnancies have a considerable impact, programs have been initiated in some countries to make certain contraceptives available without a prescription. We, therefore, investigated whether or not Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, is ready for such an initiative.
We used a mixed-methods approach with a mainly qualitative methodology. The opinions of pharmacists, GPs, and gynecologists, the three types of healthcare providers most closely involved in the prescription and delivery of contraception, were examined.
A majority of pharmacists supported the idea. Moreover, a large majority occasionally dispensed hormonal contraception without a prescription. Pharmacists expected negative responses from physicians. Among GPs and gynecologists, a small majority supported the idea conditionally. A minority either fully endorsed the assertion or found it completely unacceptable.
Economic aspects were crucial in forming an opinion on the topic, although medical arguments were used when they happened to point in the same direction. Flemish pharmacists were willing to train for and implement a new service that would provide contraceptives without a prescription. The majority of GPs and gynecologists expressed reservations about such a service and doubted that it would reduce unintended pregnancies.