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Page last updated at 16:59 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009
Morning-after pill on sale online
Morning-after pill
One morning-after pill will cost 27.99 on the new service

A major High Street chemist has become the first in the UK to sell the morning-after pill over the internet.

Lloyds Pharmacy says it's giving people an option in emergencies but critics say it'll encourage unprotected sex.

From Monday, women can order up to three pills, which will be delivered 72 hours after they place the order.

Women wanting to use the service will have to complete a detailed questionnaire, which will then be checked by a doctor.

Women will be able to purchase up to three pills at a time, at prices ranging from £27.99 to £74.97.

The pill, which is reportedly 95% effective if taken within 24 hours of having sex, will only be sent to the address of the credit card holder ordering.

Steve Marinker, spokesperson for Lloyds Pharmacy, explained how the service was designed to be used.

This can help prevent things such as unplanned pregnancies as opposed to encouraging promiscuity
Emily James, Marie Stopes International

"A lot of women have told us that they would find it very useful to have an advanced supply of the morning-after pill," he explained.

"For example, when they're going abroad somewhere where they don't speak the language and they're worried that if they find themselves in a situation where they might need the morning-after pill - for example, a condom splits - that they won't necessarily be able to get one very easily.

"Maybe something's gone wrong with their normal contraception and it's a Saturday night," he added, "and they might be anxious about how long it will take them to get a morning-after pill, and that they might have to wait until Monday morning."

Confidential checks

Steve Marinker explained that the service's safeguards should cut the chances of people taking advantage of the system - for example, by stockpiling pills either for their own use or to sell on.

"Price is one [barrier]," he said, "and so too is the fact that each and every time you try to buy these products on our service a GP reviews your application.

"Through the confidential online patient record, he or she would know when you last tried to buy this product, so if there was anything irregular or worrying, the GP would immediately get in contact and ask you questions before they'd be prepared to write a prescription."

Some groups have greeted the news with concern, however, claiming the new system could cause harm to women by possibly making it simpler to get hold of the morning-after pill.

Paul Tully from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is worried by the news.

"We're very disturbed at this development, this is a trend that a number of those in the family planning industry have been pushing for," he said.

He believes contraceptive practices aren't working.

"One's got to look at good evidence. In terms of the epidemiological evidence - what's happening throughout the population - the accelerating rate of sexually transmitted diseases and the continuing high level of teenage pregnancies, pregnancies which people say are unplanned, and of abortions.

"All those practices indicate that the current kind of practices are not working."

'Emergency purposes only'

Emily James from the family planning clinic Marie Stopes International reckons the service is a step forward, though.

"The way people should perhaps be viewing this is very much as a 'belt and braces' approach," she said.

Contraceptive pills
The morning-after pill is not meant to replace daily contraceptive pills

"This isn't designed to be contraception in its own right, the idea is that people can order this as part of their forward planning for if their normal contraception fails.

"So it's the idea that you can have it in your cupboard alongside your Paracetamol and your Nurofen, but with the idea that it's not there for consistent use, it's there for emergency purposes only."

Some commentators have suggested that the system, whereby women could have a few morning-after pills in their possession for emergencies, may lead to increased promiscuity, or even more cases of unprotected sex.

However, Emily James doesn't believe the small possibility of inappropriate use should stop Lloyds offering the service.

"That's always a risk that people are not going to use it in the intended way," she explained.

"There's always risks with contraceptive measures, nothing is 100% effective, so the idea that people can actually use emergency contraception is actually there to serve people who have had, for some reason, failed contraception.

"This can help prevent things such as unplanned pregnancies as opposed to encouraging promiscuity.

"The idea is that it needs to be used in the way it is intended."

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