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Emergency contraceptive gets pharmacy access clearance

One of the most commonly used emergency contraceptive brands, ellaOne, will be available without a prescription from all pharmacies from next year.

The five-day contraceptive pill can currently be offfered by some pharmacies without a prescription under a patient group directive (PGD) but the European Medicines Agency (EMA) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) has now cleared it for direct access from all pharmacies.

The drug’s manufacturer HRA Pharma called the ruling a ‘landmark’ decision, saying this is the ‘first-ever recommendation of its type regarding an oral contraceptive product’.

The CHMP recommendation will now be sent to the European Commission for a legally binding decision, with HRA Pharma saying it expects ellaOne to be available directly from pharmacies in the UK during 2015.

The ellaOne pill contains ulipristal acetate, which means it stops progesterone working normally and prevents pregnancy by by preventing or delaying ovulation.

On NHS Choices it is listed as one of three emergency contraception options alongside the other oral emergency pill, Levonelle (levonorgesterel), and intra-uterine decives (IUDs) which can prevent pregancy if inserted within a certain timeframe.

It comes after NICE recently recommended that GPs offer advance prescriptions for small supplies of emergency contraception pills to young women relying on condoms or the pill. However NICE guidance continues to recommend GPs advise the emergency pill as a ‘last resort’, while promoting a more reliable long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) treatment.

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