UK trials sale of ‘five-day-after pill’
Until now it has only been possible to get the pill, called ellaOne, with a prescription from a GP – or from a London-based website which also sells Viagra and weight-loss drugs.
It is now to be sold at pharmacies for the first time, enabling women to prevent unwanted pregnancies up to five days after sex, without any requirement for women to have had a doctor’s consultation or get a prescription.
The contraceptive is thought to work by preventing ovulation and fertilisation, and by making the lining of the womb less receptive to a fertilised egg, The Telegraph reports.
According to the NetDoctor, ellaOne is significantly more effective than the most commonly-used morning-after pill, Levonelle, which can be taken up to three days after intercourse.
However, it is estimated that for every 100 women who take ellaOne up to five days after unprotected sex, approximately two women will become pregnant.
Studies have shown that 0.91 per cent of women who took ellaOne became pregnant, compared with 1.68 per cent of those who took the conventional morning-after pill.
The tablet is more effective at preventing pregnancy the earlier it is taken, so should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex, rather than leaving it to the fifth day.
Jane Devenish, clinical service pharmacist for the chain, said that this service will be an important step, offering women access to a wider choice of emergency contraception in a community pharmacy and enabling them to make an informed decision.
“It is not our place to make a judgement on people’s motives or lifestyles, and there can be numerous reasons for seeking medical help,” she said.
Healthcare Today reports that the Co-operative Pharmacy’s initial plan is to runs trials in 40 branches in Essex, London and Bristol and if the pilot proves a success, it will roll sales out across its 760 branches.
The product will only be available to people over the age of 18, and women asking for the emergency contraception will be offered a private consultation with a pharmacist.
Some 250,000 women use emergency contraception every year, overwhelmingly paid for by the NHS.
Women wanting ellaOne will be questioned by a pharmacist to check their age, and that they are not already pregnant or on any medication which could cause complications.
If pharmacists think someone is under 18 – and they cannot provide ID to prove otherwise – they will be refused the pill, as it has not been properly tested on younger women.
Side-effects include nausea, vomiting, headaches, mood swings and back pain, similar to the conventional morning-after pill.