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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 01:17 GMT
New strategy for contraception ads
The advertisement will appear in women's magazines
The advertisement will appear in women's magazines
Adverts for health emergency contraception are being placed in glossy women's magazines in a bid to raise awareness of its availability.

But there has been criticism of the campaign by religious groups.

It comes as Scottish lawyers and doctors claim frequent use of emergency contraception could lead to long-term health problems for women.

Pharmaceutical giant Schering planned its advertising campaign, believed to be the first ever for Levonelle, after a survey of women found only 40% knew the emergency contraceptive pill was available from chemists.


Levonelle is there to provide an extra route of access for women should their normal contraceptive let them down

Dr Peter Longthorne, Schering Health Care
Adverts will appear in the March editions of Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Red and New Woman.

The advert reads, "Missed pill. Oooops. Emergency contraception!!! Quick. Pharmacy. Buy Levonelle."

It will also be displayed as posters in pharmacies and GP surgeries and in women's toilets in bars, clubs and cafes.

The campaign is being targeted at women over 20.

Choice

A spokeswoman for Schering told BBC News Online the average age of women using Levonelle was 24.

She added that 85% of women taking emergency contraception were over 20.

She said: "It's really all about making more choice available to women."

The company stresses emergency contraception is not 100% reliable and should not replace regular long-term contraception.

The advert has caused controversy amongst church and family groups
Church and family groups are concerned
Dr Peter Longthorne, medical director at Schering Health Care, said: "As an emergency contraceptive, Levonelle is there to provide an extra route of access for women should their normal contraceptive let them down.

"The advertising campaign aims to be responsible, educating women about the options open to them, should their normal method of contraception fail for any reason. The most important thing is that women make their own decision, knowing all the facts."

But the Church of England has expressed concern about the advertising campaign's impact on teenagers under 16, and people not using regular forms of contraception.

Spokesman Arun Kataria told Reuters: "The morning-after pill ... might well make it easier to have under-age sex because a solution is more easily available."


The lack of scientific understanding of the function of the morning-after pill raises significant issues about safety

Dr Anne Williams
Glasgow GP
The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics has produced its briefing paper on emergency contraception for the Scottish Executive and MSPs.

It says there are concerns about the drug's effects on teenagers' bodies: "There is no data on subsequent fertility when a young developing body is exposed to such high doses of hormones."

The report warns that because emergency contraception can be obtained over the counter in pharmacists, health professionals would not know how often women are taking it.

Dr Anne Williams, the Glasgow GP who wrote the report, said: "The lack of scientific understanding of the function of the morning-after pill raises significant issues about safety and risk management in its prescription."

Levonelle was first made available over-the-counter a year ago.

Women over 16 can buy emergency contraception for 19.99 after a consultation with a trained pharmacist.

It is also available free on prescription to women who have had unprotected sex within 72 hours.

However, it is more effective the sooner it is taken after intercourse.

Levonelle is 95% effective within the first 24 hours, 85% effective between 25 and 48 hours and 58% effective if taken between 49 and 72 hours after unprotected sex.

See also:

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