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Over-counter sales of morning-after pill welcomed

NEWS that the 'morning-after pill' is set to become available over the counter for the first time in this country has been welcomed.

Boots pharmacies will allow women over the age of 18 years to bypass their GPs and purchase the emergency contraceptive over-the-counter.

The move was welcomed by the Irish Family Planning Association, which has been calling for the morning-after pill to be made available over the counter like in the UK and a few other European countries for years.

IFPA Medical Director Dr Caitriona Henchion said: "The IFPA has advocated for improved access to emergency contraceptive pills for a number of years because it is more effective the sooner it is taken. Emergency contraception is currently available directly from pharmacies in 17 European Union countries.

"The emergency contraceptive pill is a very safe and responsible method of preventing pregnancy and offers women and girls a second chance to prevent pregnancy when a regular method has failed, no method was used or sex was forced."

The provision of emergency contraception has been licensed for use in Ireland since late 2001 but, until now, those who sought the service needed a doctor's prescription.

The morning-after pill will cost €45 at the chain of chemists, about a third less or €20 cheaper than it would cost at a family planning clinic of GP surgery.

Chief pharmacist with Boots Ireland, Mary Rose Burke said that it was legally entitled to give medication to women directly according an amendment in legislation in 2005.

The amendment allows for pharmacists to offer the emergency contraception if they work under a protocol drawn up by a doctor.

Boots' protocol or Patient Group Direction has been authorised by its medical director Dr Graham Marshal, who is registered with the Irish Medical Council.

In order to purchase the medication, patients will have to have a one-to-one consultation with a pharmacist and receive advice on long-term contraception, sexual health, including sexually transmitted diseases.