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Friday, 17 August, 2001, 00:45 GMT 01:45 UK
Teenager contraceptive fears 'unfounded'
Emergency contraception
Most users of emergency contraception are adults
Teenage girls have not been flocking to use emergency contraception in large numbers, sales figures suggest.

There were fears that making emergency contraception - known colloquially as the morning after pill - available over the counter would prompt its widespread use by teenagers.

But sales figures for the pill, known by the trade name Levonelle, released by the pharmacy chain Superdrug suggest these fears were unfounded.

The morning after pill is too expensive for young women

Dr Marianne Parry
They show that the majority of women who bought the pill were working and aged 25 to 35.

Two-thirds of sales were made in the South East of England with the top 10 selling stores inside the M25 motorway.

Outside of London, Wolverhampton in the West Midlands was the biggest single area for sales of Levonelle, which costs 19.99.

Sales of the emergency contraception nationally averaged around 150-a-week, peaking at the May bank holiday weekend and Easter.

Lincensed for sale

Emergency contraception was licensed for sale in January 2001 to any woman over the age of 16, provided they answer a series of medical questions.

Schering Health Care, which markets Levonelle, said its data showed only a quarter of sales were made over the counter while total sales have risen by 5% since the drug was licensed for sale in chemists.

Dr Marianne Parry, of Marie Stopes International, said: "People were saying selling the morning after pill over the counter would increase promiscuity, but it has done nothing of the sort for several reasons.

"The morning after pill is too expensive for young women, particularly teenagers, to use regularly, even though Marie Stopes offers it for 10.

"When a woman buys it at a chemist, they are told that it has a higher failure rate than the contraceptive pill and most are sensible enough to remember this fact.

"Also the morning after pill can leave a lot of women feeling very sick and they will not repeatedly take something that makes them feel unwell."

An abortion is still an abortion, these pills just do it earlier

Paul Danon
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said Superdrug was attempting to justify a reprehensible product.

Spokesman Paul Danon said: "The fact that the 25 to 35 age group are using the morning after pill goes against the idea that it is for emergency use only, as women of that age are expected to make prior arrangements before having intercourse.

"We would also like to see whether the data will be checked against clinical abortions to see if use of the morning after pill has led to a reduction in abortions as its supporters had claimed - we fear it will not.

"An abortion is still an abortion, these pills just do it earlier."

See also:

02 Jul 01 | BMA Conference
Emergency contraception 'should be free'
29 Nov 99 | Medical notes
Emergency contraception
26 Jan 01 | Health
Superdrug's internet pill U-turn
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