What has happened?
Since 2002, the Government's strategy to reduce teen pregnancies has been in part about making the morning-after pill more widely available to youngsters. But an article last week in the British Medical Journal by sexual-health expert Professor Anna Glasier said this tactic has not had a notable effect on rates of pregnancy and abortion.
And the media picked this up?
Yes, last week's Daily Mail splash on the ‘Government's shocking failure to cut teen pregnancies' was perhaps the hardest-hitting interpretation. But The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and radio stations such as BBC Radio 5 Live also carried the story. The Daily Mail claimed teen pregnancies had risen by 12 per cent since 2002.
It sounds pretty damning…
The Mail certainly thought so, using phrases such as ‘dramatic failure' and ‘damning verdict', and describing the strategy as a campaign to ‘hand out' morning-after pills to teenagers.
What was the Government's response?
The Department for Education and Skills handles matters relating to teenage pregnancy. Not surprisingly, the media team is in ‘rebuttal' mode, denying the strategy is a campaign to hand out morning-after pills. It put out a statement challenging the interpretation of the information in the BMJ article, claiming that the conception rate among under-18s is at its lowest for 20 years and has fallen by 11 per cent since the launch of the strategy.
Are there any OTC morning-after pills in the UK?
Yes, Schering Health Care's Levonelle. And a word to the wise: ‘morning-after' is a frowned-upon term at Schering - the company prefers ‘emergency hormonal contraception', because, it says, Levonelle can be taken up to 72 hours after intercourse. For the record, comms manager Sophie Binks says there is no specific PR campaign running for Levonelle at the moment.
What was this story's route to media?
Quite a simple one: the British Medical Association, which publishes the BMJ, put out a routine, embargoed press release to accompany its latest issue. Glasier's article, ‘Emergency Contraception: is it worth all the fuss?', was the lead item.
What else does Glasier do?
She is director of family planning and Well Woman services at Lothian Primary Care NHS Trust.
Further information go to www.bma.org.uk