Objectives: To examine primary care provision of early medical abortion services in Australia. Design: Cross-sectional study; analysis of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) dispensing data. Setting, participants: Women of child-bearing age (15–54 years), Australia, 2015–2019. Main outcome measures: Age-standardised rates of MS-2 Step prescriptions dispensed by year for 2015–2019, and age-standardised rates by state, remoteness area, and level 3 statistical areas (SA3s) for 2019. Numbers and proportions of SA3s in which MS-2 Step was not prescribed by a GP or dispensed by a community pharmacy during 2019 (unweighted and weighted by number of women of reproductive age), by state and remoteness area. Results: During 2015–2019, 91 643 PBS prescriptions for MS-2 Step were dispensed; the national age-standardised rate increased from 1.63 in 2015 to 3.79 prescriptions per 1000 women aged 15–54 years in 2019. In 2019, rates were higher in outer regional Australia (6.53 prescriptions per 1000 women aged 15–54 years) and remote Australia (6.02 per 1000) than in major cities (3.30 per 1000). However, about 30% of women in Australia lived in SA3s in which MS-2 Step had not been prescribed by a GP during 2019, including about 50% of those in remote Australia. Conclusions: The rate of early medical abortion is greater among women in remote, outer regional, and inner regional Australia than in major cities, but a considerable proportion of women live in areas in which MS-2 Step was not locally prescribed or dispensed during 2019. Supporting GPs in the delivery of early medical abortion services locally should be a focus of health policy.
- Primary health care
- Rural health services