Britain’s largest chemist is planning to sell the morning-after pill over the internet, but critics have warned that the scheme is “grossly inappropriate”.
Boots is planning to sell the controversial drug, usually sold under the brand name Levonelle, through a new website which enables people to buy certain medications without the need for a prescription.
The morning-after pill can cause an early stage abortion, and Boots’ plan would allow anyone with access to a credit card to buy the drug.
Critics are concerned that the plan will lead to young girls taking the drugs without any medical advice, and encourage the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
Dr Trevor Stammers, a GP from South London and lecturer in healthcare ethics, said: “This will just encourage people to be irresponsible.
“The morning-after pill is also fuelling an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases as people just think they can have unprotected sex.
“The fact that it will be available over the internet is a further trend of our increasingly sexualised society.”
Peter Saunders, chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: “The danger is that the morning-after pill would be easily available to young girls without them seeing a doctor.
“This would encourage them to think of it as a safety mechanism and this may well promote greater promiscuity.”
And Josephine Quintavalle, of the Pro-Life Alliance, cautioned: “Girls of any age could access them. They would not have to prove how old they were so we could have very young girls aged 11 buying the morning-after pill.
“The law in this country doesn’t allow sex under the age of 16 – girls of younger ages should not really be having sex.”
The morning-after pill is normally dispensed following a consultation with a pharmacist or GP.
The drug is already available from GPs, family planning centers, A&E departments, and it can also be bought from pharmacies without a prescription for a cost of £25.
And it can currently be bought online from a number of other sources including Lloyds Pharmacy.
Earlier this year it was revealed that Christian chemists would still be allowed to opt-out of selling the morning-after pill on conscience grounds following guidance produced by the pharmaceutical regulator.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) said its revised code would allow pharmacists not to sell products which clash with their religious beliefs.
The GPhC is a new body which is to take over from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society as the pharmacy regulator later this year.
In October a consultation took place as part of plans for the new GPhC, with one of the issues considered being the question of a conscience clause.
The consultation found that a “great majority” of respondents wanted to keep the conscience clauses.