July 21, 2024

Japan Conducts Trial for Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraceptive Pill

Japan recently initiated a pilot project to sell over-the-counter morning-after contraceptive pills. However, critics argue that the scheme is too limited in scope and are calling for the removal of all restrictions surrounding the pill. Advocacy groups have long voiced concerns that emergency contraception is only available in socially conservative Japan with a doctor’s prescription and a visit to a clinic or pharmacy. This has deterred many women, particularly victims of rape and teenage girls, from accessing the medication.

Under the pilot project, the emergency contraceptive pill, which is effective within 72 hours of intercourse but becomes less effective over time, was made available at 145 pharmacies. Nonetheless, women are still required to show identification and consume the medication in the presence of a pharmacist, as stated on the Japan Pharmaceutical Association’s website.

The minimum age for over-the-counter purchase is 16, but individuals below 18 years old must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The price range for the pill is set between 7,000-9,000 yen ($47-61).

Despite the introduction of the pilot project, the Emergency Contraceptives at Pharmacies Project campaign group argues that this is insufficient. The organization’s co-chair, Asuka Someya, expressed disappointment in the limited selection of participating pharmacies. Currently, the pill is only available at 145 drugstores, which makes up just 0.2 percent of the total 60,000 pharmacies in Japan. Someya also highlighted concerns regarding the requirement for parental consent, stating that it poses significant challenges for minors.

Some individuals may find it difficult to discuss possible pregnancies with their parents. Requiring them to disclose their sexual experiences and concerns about pregnancy adds unnecessary hurdles, Someya explained. The campaign group has once again appealed to the health ministry to make the pill fully and readily available at pharmacies without any restrictions.

The decision to conduct the pilot project followed a health ministry public consultation earlier this year, which received an overwhelmingly positive response. Of the 46,000 respondents, 97 percent were in favor of making emergency contraception more accessible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) promotes the inclusion of emergency contraception as a regular component of national family planning programs. More than 90 other countries already allow the morning-after pill to be sold without a prescription, according to campaigners.


1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it