Oral contraceptives will be available without prescriptions to women 16 and over beginning next year at two trial sites in London. The trial is intended to determine whether supplying oral contraception over-the-counter at pharmacies effectively reduces the number of unintended pregnancies. According to the BBC, Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe.
The pill will be offered under an arrangement called patient group direction where a doctor authorizes pharmacists to supply the pill to a specified group of patients, in this case women over the age of 16.
A Department of Health spokeswoman told The Independent that “any woman who receives contraception from a pharmacy without a prescription can still expect a full consultation with a health professional such as [a] pharmacist or a nurse. We want to improve women’s access to contraception and help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies without undermining patient safety.” The trials will run for two years and are expected to begin in June or July of 2009, according to the Times.