31st May 2016
Sexual health experts have warned of the dangers of taking the morning after pill without proper advice after it emerged the drug is being sold illegally on eBay for just £5.
The powerful contraceptive is being sold to British women online by sellers abroad who do not ask any questions about their age, underlying health, any medications they take or when they had unprotected sex.
In the UK it is only available legitimately from GPs for free, sexual health clinics and pharmacists after the woman is asked detailed questions, or over the internet from a handful of chemists following an online consultation with a doctor.
The drug can cause serious side effects and has been linked to a fatal complication in pregnancy if taken too late. But when bought online deliveries take up to two weeks – too late for emergency use.
Experts are also concerned women are stocking up “just in case” to spare themselves a potentially embarrassing consultation with a GP or pharmacist.
A search of eBay throws up dozens of listings for the morning after pill from different countries. While some say they cannot be shipped to the UK, the majority are available to buyers in Britain. Most offer recognisable brand name pills.
An investigation carried out by The Daily Mail purchased three single packs of the pill on eBay from sellers in Sri Lanka, Poland and the US for as little as £5.17.
Dr Kate Guthrie, a sexual health specialist from Hull and spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told the paper: “You are playing roulette with what you are swallowing.
“We have concerns about any drugs bought on the internet as you don’t know what it is.”
Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust charity, added: “The easier it becomes to obtain the morning after pill without a proper medical consultation, the greater the risk to vulnerable teenage girls.
“With no questions asked about previous medical history or previous use of the drug, there is a very real danger that it could be misused or overused. The health risks to women who use the morning after pill repeatedly over a period of time are not known.”
Natika Halil, chief executive of the Family Planning Association charity, said: “It is very concerning if UK buyers are turning to the internet to buy emergency contraceptive pills from overseas.
“Even if you could be confident in the pills being safe, of which there are no guarantees, by the time they have arrived you would have passed the window of time in which emergency contraception needs to be used to be effective.”
A spokesman for watchdog the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said: “We take the illegal sale of medicines online very seriously and will investigate any report received that medicines are being offered in circumstances that do not comply with UK requirements.”
The spokesman stressed it was the sellers acting illegally, rather than eBay for listing the products.
An eBay spokesman claimed the morning after pill was being sold to British women by mistake and should only be available in the US where laws are different.
“We immediately rectified the fact that a small number of products were visible on the UK website by removing these listings,” the spokesman added.