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Over-the-counter emergency contraception widens access for girls under 16

Women can now buy the ‘morning-after’ pill ellaOne over the counter from pharmacists, potentially widening access to emergency contraception for younger girls under the age of 16.

The European Medicines Agency ruled ellaOne (ulipristal acetate 30mg) could be switched from a prescription-only to pharmacy medicine last November, a switch that subsequently gained approval from the European Commission earlier this year.

Under-16s can already get Levonelle (levonorgestrel) from some pharmacists under patient group directions, but as ellaOne can now be stocked by any pharmacy the switch is expected to increase access to emergency contraception for girls under the age of consent.

However, as each pack of ellaOne costs £35 family planning exerts said younger women are still likely to seek emergency contraception through existing services.

The change comes after NICE recently advised that GPs should offer a small supply of emergency contraception to women relying on condoms or the pill for contraception – but that they should still only recommend its use a ‘last resort’, and encourage women to consider long-acting reversible contraceptives.

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