London: A contraceptive pill which can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex will now be made available at pharmacies in the UK without the need for prescription, a move that has drawn concern from critics.
The UK-based Co-Operative Pharmacy chain is to sell the `five-day-after pill` for 30 pounds, with no requirement for women to have had a doctor`s consultation beforehand, The Telegraph reported.
Until now it has only been possible to get the pill, ellaOne with a prescription from a General Practitioner.
Now, the pill will be on sale in around 40 branches in "areas of high demand" including Essex, London and Bristol, a spokesman from the company was quoted as saying.
The firm said it was taking the step to offer women greater choice, but critics said it would encourage "a more casual attitude to sex" and contribute to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases, The Telegraph reported.
Critics also said that ministers had originally given assurances that morning after pills would only ever be prescribed in "exceptional circumstances", but they had slowly become more widely available, the report said.
Concerns were also raised that the rules would be flouted and under-18s would gain access to the pill which is thought to work by preventing ovulation and fertilisation, and by making the lining of the womb less receptive to a fertilised egg.
It is significantly more effective than the most commonly used morning-after pill, Levonelle, which can be taken up to three days after intercourse, the paper said.
Jane Devenish, clinical service pharmacist for the chain, said it was "an emotive subject".
"We believe that this service will be an important step to offer women access to a wider choice of emergency contraception in a community pharmacy to enable them to make an informed decision," she said.
"It is not our place to make a judgement on people`s motives or lifestyles and there can be numerous reasons for seeking medical help," she was quoted as saying by the paper.
When a woman comes in asking for emergency contraception, she would be offered a private consultation with a pharmacist, who would advise her which option was best. Only over 18s would be able to buy ellaOne, she said.
Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said the organisation had a "profound objection" to ellaOne because "it works on some occasions by terminating the life of the early embryo".
He also criticised the Co-Operative Pharmacy for "taking away the safeguard of the appointment with the GP, who has access to the woman`s medical history".
Norman Wells, of the Family Educational Trust, said ellaOne was "likely to act" by inducing abortion, and that widening access would serve to increase STI rates.