The Argentine Health Ministry announced today that Levonorgestrel morning-after pills will no longer require a doctor’s prescription and will be sold over the counter across the country.
According to the resolution, the active ingredient Levonorgestrel is “a safe effective, and simple alternative to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.” It can be taken up to 120 hours after sexual relations — whether unprotected or if the chosen method fails. It is more effective within the first 12 hours.
“That’s why ensuring access is key for it to be as effective as possible,” said the resolution published by the Health Ministry this morning.
“This measure will allow people to, for example, buy the pill and have it at home as any other over-the-counter medication, just in case,” said Valeria Isla, the ministry’s Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health.
“In hospitals, any health worker will be able to give it, so doctors can provide it more easily — it will be distributed similarly to condoms and hormone contraceptives. This will begin a process of working across the entire preventive contraception public strategy.”
In Argentina, most contraceptive methods such as the pill, IUDs and condoms are included in the Compulsory Health Plan (Plan Médico Obligatorio, PMO, in Spanish). This means that public and private health institutions must commit to providing them free of charge for patients who require them.
“It’s a step towards pharmaceutical care of reproductive health,” said the Argentine Pharmaceutical Confederation (AHE) in a statement released today. However, they warned that morning-after pills should not be used as a frequent contraceptive and, in order for them to be effective, they have to be timely administrated.
The resolution is a further step towards securing sexual and reproductive rights for universal access in the country. In 2020, the Argentine Congress legalized abortion free of cost up to week 14, making the country a legislative pioneer in sexual and reproductive rights in Latin America. Last March, the National Administration of Medicines, Food and Medical Technology (ANMAT) authorized the commercialization of the abortion drug mifepristone.
According to the government, from 2020 to 2021 there was a 40% decrease in maternal mortality due to pregnancies ending in abortion, after abortion was legalized on December 30 2020. Maternal deaths linked to “medical abortion, other abortion, unspecified abortion and unsuccessful attempted abortion” fell from 13 in 2020 to nine in 2021. However, in some places in the country, access to sexual and reproductive rights is still not fully guaranteed.