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Spain's Ministry of Health to Curb Subsidy of Contraceptives

Source: El Pais - Fri 26th Jul 2013
Spain's Ministry of Health to Curb Subsidy of Contraceptives

As of August, Spanish State Healthcare will stop subsidising a number of birth control pills as part of its cost-cutting measures. Brands affected include Drosianelle; Yasminelle; Dretine, and ethinylestradiol - all of which are the most popular and current oral contraceptives on the market.

Health officials said that the decision to remove these pills from the list of subsidized prescription drugs is due to criteria of "sustainability and resource optimization." A spokeswoman for the Health Ministry said that these specific oral contraceptives, which are used by over one million women, "have no added advantage" over the ones still on the list.

Generic formulas containing desogestrel and ethinylestradiol will still be subsidized.

Experts in reproductive health, as well as opposition parties, have fiercely criticized the decision, which they say is detrimental to women. The PSOE deputy secretary general, Elena Valenciano, accused the Popular Party government of wanting to extend "its ultraconservative ideology" and of taking a stand "against women" and their sexual and reproductive freedom.

"It's one more social cutback," says gynecologist Isabel Serrano, who considers it a major hurdle for women's access to oral contraceptives. "There are no economic or health arguments to support it. It is not true that there are similar therapeutic alternatives or at least not in the same degree." There are no economic or health arguments to support it."

Experts such as Ezequiel Pérez Campos, head of gynecology at the Requena Hospital and a member of the Spanish Contraceptive Society, notes that the pills that were struck from the subsidized list are the most popular among women. The association estimates that nearly 2 million women use the drugs that will no longer be financed, meaning that they will cost users between €10 - €18 per box.

"People are asking us for them, not just because they are the most modern ones, but also because they are covered, especially now, with the crisis," adds Serrano, who has been working as a gynecologist for over 20 years.

But the Health Ministry insists that over 20 birth control pills are still being subsidized, including 2 third-generation ones (the rest being 2nd-generation).

Alexa Segura, of the State Family Planning Federation, criticizes the effects of the measure on users but also on professionals. "Many can only afford the subsidized pills. There are not so many methods out there that we can afford to take one out… And access to prophylactics is also complex. This means that doctors will have to prescribe the subsidized pill, not the ideal one, and users will have less of a choice."