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Saturday, 8 January, 2000, 08:56 GMT
Morning-after pill over the counter
The pilot scheme will run until March
The morning-after contraceptive pill is being made available free on the NHS from chemists without prescription as part of a pilot scheme to cut unwanted pregnancies.

The trial, backed by the Department of Health, has been running at 16 pharmacies in Manchester since Christmas Eve.

Girls will get used and hurt

Family and Youth Concern
But family pressure groups say it encourages casual sex. "It encourages people not to take responsibility for their actions because the state will pick up the pieces," Valerie Riches of Family and Youth Concern told the Express.

"It will be an excuse for people, especially boys, not to use contraception which will lead to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

"Girls will get used and hurt because boys know there is no need to worry about the risk of pregnancy."

So far, 18 women have used the service, which is being run by the Manchester, Trafford and Salford Health Action Zone. The trial will run until the end of March and organisers hope it will be extended.

A spokesman for the health action zone said: "Sixteen pharmacies are taking part in the pilot across the area, which has some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in the country.

Detailed questions

"The pharmacists are supplying the drug, not prescribing it. They have all undergone very rigorous training.

"They are taught a protocol which is a series of questions the women will be asked.

"The questions are detailed and complex and if she does not answer them satisfactorily she will be refused the drug and advised to contact her GP.

"Those to whom the drug is given must take it on the premises."

He said the 10-minute consultation is carried out in a private area of the pharmacy. Before the pill is handed out the woman is asked to sign a consent form.

The pilot scheme will be evaluated before a decision is made on whether to extend it.

The current emergency contraceptive drug is said to prevent 75% of pregnancies if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse.

It is a combined treatment - the woman takes two pills straight away and a further two pills 12 hours later - of oestrogen and progesterone.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is backing the plans.

President Christine Glover told The Express: "We welcome the Manchester scheme which allows women access to this safe and effective form of emergency contraception combined with expert pharmaceutical care and advice."

See also:

29 Nov 99 | Medical notes
Emergency contraception
11 Jun 98 | UK Politics
MPs call for over-the-counter pills
05 Jan 00 | Health
Male pill moves closer
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