A new “morning after” pill that can prevent pregnancy for nearly a week after unprotected sex has been approved for use across Scotland.
The drug, ulipristal acetate (UA), provides a contraception “window” of up to five days, compared with three for the traditional emergency pill, levonorgestrel.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) approved the pill for use by NHS Scotland after research showed it more than halved the risk of pregnancy compared with the 72-hour pill.
UA will cost three times as much as levonorgestrel.
The SMC said studies showed side effects of the pill were similar to those of existing emergency contraception, including headaches,
A spokesman for the SMC said: “The SMC looked at the evidence provided by the manufacturer and when we looked at the effect of the contraceptive in relation to the price we regarded it as good value for money to the NHS in Scotland.”
The spokesman added the pill would be available almost immediately on prescription from a GP or at Scottish hospitals.
Conservative health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon welcomed the approval of the pill, but said advice on contraception should also be made available
The Highlands and Islands MSP said: Hopefully this will go some way to addressing the exceptionally high level of teenage pregnancy we still have in Scotland.
“I would like to see people who are prescribed this pill also receiving advice on other forms and longer-term contraception as well.
“The existing emergency pill is sometimes viewed as the only type of contraceptive, which is clearly not the case and something has to be done to change that perception.”
Pro-life campaigners have criticised the pill, claiming it is a means of early abortion which could cause the same negative physical and psychological effects as later termination.
Michaela Aston, education officer at the charity Life, said she is “concerned” about the new contraception.
“It claims to be marginally more effective than the existing morning after pill, but that is nothing to boast about,” she said.
“All research to date shows that the previous pill has made no difference to pregnancy rates.
“The end result is that this is going to give more women a false sense of security and it’s going to lead to more pregnancies, more abortions and more misery for women.”