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Prescription-free pill not the answer, says expert

24 December 2008

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A health expert has said that the number of unwanted pregnancies will not be cut by allowing women to get the pill without the need for a prescription.

Failure to take the pill regularly contributes to the UK’s high rate of unintended pregnancies, said Dr Sarah Jarvis, the Royal College of GPs’ women’s health spokeswoman.

She said that the UK’s teen pregnancy rate, which is the highest in western Europe, would not be reduced simply by making it easier to obtain the pill.

Planned pilot schemes at Lambeth and Southwark primary care trusts in London will see women given access to the pill via chemists, following an interview with a qualified pharmacist. If the pilots are successful, the scheme could be rolled out across England.

Dr Jarvis argued in favour of long-acting contraception, such as implants or intrauterine contraceptive devices like the coil, which she said were effective for at least three months and had similar satisfaction rates.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, she said: “Although making the combined oral contraceptive pill available without prescription may be safe, it would not help.

“The major difference between long-acting and oral contraceptives is their reliability in practice.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

British Medical Journal