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First OTC oral antibiotic approved for chlamydia

By Nigel Praities

Oral antibiotics will be available without a prescription for the first time in a bid to stem the rise of chlamydia infections in young people.

The medicines regulator today gave approval for azythromycin to be made available over the counter to treat chlamydia. People aged 16 years and over, and their sexual partners, will be able to buy the antibiotic if they have tested positive for the infection and have no symptoms.

Dr June Raine, director of vigilance and risk management of medicines at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said the decision to change the classification of azythromycin was based on the scale of the problem of chlamydia infection in the UK.

‘Up to 70% of people who have chlamydia have no symptoms and could therefore remain undiagnosed. This means that they are at huge risk of serious long-term health complications, including infertility and ectopic pregnancy.

‘Today's move means that symptom–free people diagnosed with chlamydia and their partner will be able to get convenient effective treatment from their local pharmacy,' she said.

Government figures published earlier this month showed a 6% rise in sexually-transmitted infections in 2007, with 65% of all cases of chlamydia diagnosed in young people attending GUM clinics.

Howard Duff, director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said the development would help reduce the prevalence of STIs in the young.

‘Pharmacists already play an important role in the provision of sexual health services, and have done so for many years. Reclassifying azithromycin will expand on existing services and improve access to chlamydia screening and treatment for patients.

The medicine is expected to be available on pharmacy shelves later this year.

Chlamydia trachomatis Chlamydia trachomatis

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