Morning-after pill trial in Plymouth prompts backlash
A MORNING-AFTER pill that works up to five days after sex is being trialled at two city pharmacies.
But campaigners say they fear the new drug – which can be used two days later than those already on offer – will promote "casual sex".
The Co-operative Pharmacy has launched a trial of new morning-after pill EllaOne at 40 high street branches across England and Wales, of which two are in Plymouth.
The two nominated pharmacies, at Torridge Way in Efford, and Wolseley Road in St Budeaux, will trial EllaOne, which can be taken within 120 hours of having unprotected sex, under a patient group directive.
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The pharmacy is the first chain to trial the drug without the need for a GP prescription. The medication can instead be supplied by a qualified healthcare professional, such as a pharmacist, following consultation.
But Christine Hudson, a member of the Family Education Trust charity, described it as an early method of abortion – and said there was no evidence that these sorts of pills reduced unwanted pregnancies.
"It's yet one more pill on the market promoting a casual attitude to sex to young girls", she said.
"If a conception has occurred when the pill is taken then the mode of action of the morning-after pill is an abortifacient one."
The drug will be available for £30 and is only recommended for women aged 18 years or over.
Mrs Hudson slammed the trial as "irresponsible". She added: ""How are pharmacists going to be able to decide whether a girl is over 18? It's just facilitating casual sex which will always end in tears."
And Gary Streeter, Tory MP for South West Devon, had similar concerns.
"I think we've got to be very cautious about going down this road," he said.
"It's better to emphasise to young people that sexual relationships are far more fulfilling when they are long-term and loving and anything that promotes casual sex like this is unhelpful."
The most common morning-after pill, Levonelle One Step, can be taken up to 72 hours after intercourse.
A city GP told The Herald he believed most health practitioners would welcome EllaOne because it extended the period of choice for a woman.
He said: "You often find people are unsure what to do, or may have problems accessing advice over a weekend for example, so all this is doing is extending the period of choice. It's not always black and white.
"There is no evidence that the drug promotes casual sex. I don't think access to this will change people's behaviours. Having something effective up to five days after intercourse is clearly something we'd welcome as a group."
EllaOne works by stopping or delaying ovulation and works even if the egg is ready to be released.
Jane Devenish, clinical service pharmacist, at The Co-operative Pharmacy, added: "It is not our place to make a judgement on people's motives or lifestyles. Condoms remain the only form of long-term contraception that will protect against sexually transmitted infections and we advise women who have had unprotected sex to take a sexual disease test."