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95,000; EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION SHOCK 355% rise in demand for morning after pill.

Byline: David Taylor david.taylor@dailyrecord.co.uk

DEMAND for the morning after pill has more than quadrupled since it became available for free in Scotland, it emerged yesterday.

The Scottish Government scrapped charges for emergency contraception in 2008 in a bid to cut the number of teenage pregnancies.

Previously, the morning after pill was available free only if a woman got a prescription from a GP or a family planning clinic.

It could also be bought over the counter but pharmacists were allowed to opt out of providing it as a matter of conscience.

But despite the dramatic surge in demand since the morning after pill became more easily available, there has only been a small drop in the number of abortions in Scotland.

In 2007-08, pharmacists dispensed the pill 20,906 times, costing the taxpayer PS140,112.

The next year, during which it became free on demand, 48,200 pills were issued.

But in 2009, the first full year it was available without a prescription, 94,925 were issued at a cost of about PS525,000.

The most up-to-date figures show 95,208 pills were handed out in 2012-13.

has Andrew Radley, a consultant in public health with NHS Tayside, said: "The number of women accessing the service has grown by quite a large extent. that last-"The reason is because it's confidential and they get a good service that provides the products they require to deal with unprotected sex."

It's impossible to say how many unwanted pregnancies have been avoided because the morning after pill is available for free.

Radley said: "Teenage pregnancy is a complicated area and we have no information as to the number who became pregnant and whether they accessed the morning after pill.

"But the fact that lots of women are accessing it means that a significant number of unwanted pregnancies are being avoided."

The abortion rate in Scotland has fallen just five per cent since 2006 - but teenage pregnancies dropped from 4242 in 2008 to 3278 last year.

In 2006, 13,167 abortions were solution' JACKSON CARLAW carried out across the country. In 2011, the most recent figures available, there were 12,447. Meanwhile, some experts claim making the morning after pill easily available has led to an increase in cases of sexually transmitted disease.

Teenage pregnancy expert Professor David Paton, of Nottingham University Business School, said: "It's pretty clear that making the morning after pill available for free doesn't lead to a reduction in unwanted pregnancies.

"You don't get the decrease you want in unwanted pregnancies but there can be the unintended consequence of rising rates of sexually transmitted infections."

STI diagnosis has increased among Scots male and female heterosexuals over the last five years.

Although commonly known as the morning after pill, some emergency contraception can be taken up to five days after unprotected intercourse.

The most commonly used brand in the UK, Levonelle, is more effective the earlier it is used.

A 2010 study found that, of 1696 women who received the pill within 72 hours of having sex, 37 became pregnant.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "It has to be emphasised that it is a last-ditch solution for young women and girls, not something routinely taken like paracetamol.

"Another danger of its increasing popularity is the impact this will have on sexually transmitted diseases.

"The morning after pill does nothing but encourage the risktaking which such infections thrive on and I'm not convinced that message is being well enough communicated."

But a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The availability of emergency contraception through community pharmacies ensures women can access contraception and advice as soon as they need it, therefore helping to reduce the likelihood of an unplanned pregnancy.

"The prescribing of any medicines, including emergency contraception, is a matter for individual clinicians.

"Teenage pregnancies are down nationally and are the lowest they have been since 1994.

"We have no concerns about the effectiveness and costs of emergency contraception."

A Catholic Church spokesman, however, claimed the Government's policy of providing the pill for free was failing.

He added: "Economically, it appears to be a transfer of funds from the NHS to pharmaceutical companies for little, if any, benefit to the country, and especially women."

'It has to be emphasised that it is a last-ditch solution' JACKSON CARLAWCHANGING FIGURES 3AVAILABLE Year Abortions Scrips Teen pregnancies 2006 13,167 N/A N/A 2007 13,740 20,906 N/A 2008 13,835 48,200 4242 2009 12,939 94,925 4203 2010 12,554 88,079 3923 2011 12,447 95,438 3700 2012 N/A 95,208 3278

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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 4, 2013
Words:783
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