Pharmacists have been told they should get parental consent if an underage girl tries to buy the morning after pill.
The advice has been issued by their regulatory body the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland following the decision this week to allow Norlevo be sold over the counter to women of all ages.
It points out that pharmacists should be aware that patients aged 16 years and over are entitled by law to give their own consent to medical treatment.
However, where "a patient is under the age of 16 years it is usual that parental consent is sought", it added.
Pharmacists should also be aware that the age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17.
It will also be necessary to counsel any woman who wants to buy the pill over the counter. "Due to the nature of these medicines and associated patient counselling requirements, a private consultation between the pharmacist and the individual patient herself is required. This is necessary to determine the appropriateness of the supply and provide an opportunity to meet the appropriate patient counselling requirements," the guide says.
If appropriate to the patient's circumstances, the pharmacist should discuss with the patient that an alternative method of emergency contraception may be available upon referral to a medical practitioner.
The pharmacist needs to refer the patient to another healthcare professional, service or organisation if they are not satisfied that the supply of the product to the patient is appropriate.
Pharmacists should be aware of important issues such as non-consensual intercourse, child protection and vulnerable adults.
Meanwhile the Iona Institute, a Catholic think tank, yesterday said the claim that providing access to emergency contraception without prescription would lead to fewer unwanted pregnancies was without foundation.
"Every single piece of peer-reviewed research on this subject to date has found no evidence that easier access to it leads to lower rates of unwanted pregnancies, abortions or teenage pregnancies," it said.
"This research is extensive, publicly available and the conclusions are accepted by those in favour and against the principle of emergency contraception. Given this, it is hard to understand why policy makers would make such ill-informed claims."