Millions saved if women switch to long-acting reversible contraception

More than $75 million could be saved over five years if the uptake of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) in Australia was on par with the international benchmark, new research from Family Planning NSW shows.

Published in the Australian Health Review, Cost-benefit analysis of enhancing the uptake of long-acting reversible contraception in Australia outlines how increasing Australia's LARC uptake from 12.5 per cent to the global benchmark of 14.8 per cent could save women and the government millions while also supporting increased access to more effective contraception and contraceptive choices.

LARCs are the most effective form of reversible contraception and include devices such as the intrauterine device and progestogen implants, yet their use in Australia is relatively low with the pill and condoms still being preferred by many.

FPNSW Medical Director Clinical Associate Professor Deborah Bateson said the research clearly showed there were significant savings associated with increased uptake of LARC.

"We found that women who switch from the pill to LARCs would save $114-$157 annually. Over 5 years, this adds up to $93 million for consumers," A/Prof Bateson said.

"While there would be an upfront cost incurred for women opting into LARCs who previously were not using any form of contraception, this group would also see savings from avoided pregnancies, abortions and other pregnancy-related health services."

"Across the board, if Australia's LARC uptake increased to the global average, the net saving would be more than $75 million over five years for the government and consumers combined. A majority of this would come from women who switch from the pill to a LARC, with a smaller amount from women who switch from no contraception" A/Prof Bateson said.

Although the rate of LARC uptake in Australia is increasing, use of these contraceptive devices still sits behind other similar countries and below the global benchmark.

The lag in use can be attributed in part to misperceptions about LARC devices, lack of access to trained clinicians and financial barriers.

"The global benchmark for LARC uptake is 14.8 per cent with rates across European countries varying between 17 to 20 per cent. With Australia behind at 12.5 per cent, we do have some catching up to do," A/Prof Bateson said.

"One of the contributing factors for this is the upfront cost for LARCs which can be off-putting for women considering their contraceptive options, despite the longer-term savings.

"We also know that for GPs and nurses, the cost attached to training for LARC insertion can be a deterrent, and often isn't undertaken– so access to trained clinicians is also an issue.

"In order for Australian women to be encouraged to switch to a LARC and for these savings to be realised, these barriers need to be addressed.

"Ultimately, this research should act as an incentive for the government to review strategies to improve women's access to all contraceptive options, including LARCs, as both an economic investment and an investment in women's reproductive and sexual health."

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Media enquiries: Family Planning NSW E: media@fpnsw.org.au M: 0402 880 653

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