The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved a reclassification of HRA Pharma’s contraceptive pill, making it available to buy in the UK without a prescription.

Following the reclassification authorisation, the progestogen only pill – containing 75 micrograms desogestrel – will be available for women in the UK to purchase over the counter after a pharmacy consultation.

“HRA Pharma has always been committed to helping women take their reproductive health into their own hands. Making a highly effective regular contraceptive method easily accessible to women is the next step of HRA Pharma’s history,” said Frédérique Welgryn, chief strategic operations and innovation officer at HRA Pharma.

In a statement, HRA Pharma said it is also working with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a similar switch. If approved, it would become the first time that a birth control pill becomes available to buy without a prescription for women in the US, the consumer healthcare company added.

In response to the MHRA authorisation, Michelle Riddalls, chief executive officer of consumer healthcare association PAGB said: “This is the first time that any form of daily contraceptive pill has been licensed for over-the-counter sale in the UK, 60 years after the pill was originally offered by the NHS – initially to married women only.”

“Enabling women to buy the progestogen-only pill in pharmacies will be particularly beneficial at a time when accessing sexual health services has become more challenging in parts of the UK because of pressure on NHS resources and the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.