The morning-after pill has been officially licensed for use by girls under 16 for the first time and is set to be available from pharmacies across the country. EllaOne, which has the advantage of being effective five days after sexual intercourse, has received a change of licence from the European medicines agency, which means it is available for use by any woman of reproductive age in Europe.
Tony Fraser, the general manager of HRA Pharma in the UK and Ireland, which makes the pill, said he felt it was “important that we look at these things pragmatically and realistically. Girls don’t go to the pharmacy unless something has happened and they need care”.
The UK has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe. Although the latest figures, released in February, showed a drop of 14% on the previous year, there were still 4,648 pregnancies in girls under 16. There were 24,306 pregnancies in under-18s, just over half of which ended in abortion.
Girls under 16 are below the age of consent, but an existing scheme operated by the NHS devised to help combat teenage pregnancies has allowed certain pharmacists to supply the teenagers with morning-afters pill such as Levonelle. But ellaOne is available in any pharmacist that stocks it.