Prescription still needed in South Korea to access ECPs

A recent news article made the point that South Korea has emergency contraception (EC) in name only. While the article isn’t entirely accurate around side effects and other information, it makes some important points on EC access in South Korea.

During a review of their guidelines, South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety made the decision not to update their national guidelines on emergency contraception pills (ECPs) in 2016, continuing to classify ECPs as a prescription drug available only with a doctor’s prescription.  This is in contrast to WHO’s EC factsheet, stating that ECPs are safe for over the counter access.

The ministry had concerns over possible misuse or overuse of the EC pill, citing the fear of “a socially more accepting attitude toward sexual activities expected after the pill became available over the counter”. They also cited “a lack of public knowledge and possible side effects” as a barrier to moving it to over-the-counter status.

ECPs are extremely safe, even when used repeatedly, and side effects are relatively minor, benign and easy to manage. For more detail, see  ICEC’s Clinical Guidelines, ICEC – WHO Safety statement, WHO’s Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use, and ICEC’s Repeated Use Factsheet.

More up-to-date information on availability of EC in South Korea can be found in our Status and Availability Database. Two regimens of LNG ECPs are available, detailed in ICEC’s  EC regimen update: a single pill of 1.5 mg, and two pills of 0.75 mg each.