Women can now order the morning-after pill online and have it personally delivered to their homes (or direct to their desk) by courier.
The new speedy ‘morning-after pill on wheels’, offered by online medical practice DrEd, has launched in London and means women no longer have to head to the pharmacist, or consult their GP, before taking the pill.
The £20 service involves filling out a quick online form that is assessed by an online doctor and the prescription delivered by courier – in as little as two hours.
The most common morning-after pill, Levonelle®, is a drug that can only be obtained through a chemist or a GP up to 72 hours after having unprotected sex, and costs around £25.
Levonelle® is a type of emergency contraception designed to prevent pregnancy becoming established by stopping an egg being released from the ovary or sperm from fertilising an egg that has already been released.
However, critics have warned that the ‘bulk-buy’ notion of this service could encourage unprotected sex, as the website indicates that he courier service is designed for those wanting to ‘stock up’ on the pills.
“If you want to have a supply of the morning-after pill to hand in case you need emergency contraception, you can buy it online,” states the DrEd website.
Norman Wells, from the Family Education Trust, believes the service could also encourage underage girls to take the morning-after pill.
“Young people have been lulled into a false sense of security, take a more casual attitude to sex and become exposed to an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections," Wells told HuffPost Lifestyle.
"There is also a danger that the service could be used by the abusers of underage girls. The faceless nature of the service makes it all too easy for them to register on the site giving a false name and medical history and then to order the morning-after pill on behalf of their victim in an attempt to conceal their crime."
Defending the ‘contraception-by-courier’ service, Amit Khutti, founder of DrEd, told the Evening Standard: “I don’t think this service is going to appeal to miors or encourage underage sex. For a start, you need to pay for the service and if you’re young, there are already a number of places you can go to get the pill for free.”
Talking about the practicalities of the service, delivered by the Shutl courier service, Khutti claims the service is a positive thing.
“Emergency contraception works better the sooner you take it, so having it delivered within two hours will make it more likely to be effective. It’s not ethical to provide a service that arrives too late. It will arrive at the office in discreet packaging so women won’t be embarrassed.”
There have been mixed reactions about the new service, as Rebecca Findley from the Family Planning Association (FPA) told HuffPost Lifestyle: “You’re up against the clock with emergency contraception, the sooner you take it the better and women who can afford to pay for this service will find it very useful.“
However, fertility expert Emma Cannon warns: “The morning-after pill has a place but I worry about its habitual use. Any service that makes it easier to get hold of potentially leads to over-use.
“Working with infertility I see women with infertility problems caused by exposure to STDs. I think we need to take care of our sexual health early on in our life to preserve our fertility for when we wish to have children; and that means using barrier methods of contraception,” Emma told HuffPost Lifestyle.
Adding to this, Norman Wells said: "Although the morning-after pill is frequently marketed as a contraceptive, we should not lose sight of the fact that it is taken with the intention of preventing the implantation of a fertilised egg after conception has taken place. This raises obvious ethical issues that women are often not made aware of."
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service already offers an online service that allows women to request emergency contraception. However, women need to speak to a nurse over the phone before it is delivered.