Japan to trial over-the-counter sales of morning-after pills this month

Over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptives are set to begin on a trial basis in Japan later this month. Currently, a prescription is needed to obtain them.

So-called ''morning-after pills'' are usually effective in preventing pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse.

The trial will be conducted by the Japan Pharmaceutical Association. Buyers will be asked to respond to a questionnaire.

The association says women aged 16 or older can buy the pills if they agree to take part, but those aged 16 and 17 need the consent of their parents or guardians.

Association officials say the price will range from 7,000 yen to 9,000 yen, or about 46-to- 60 dollars. They say they have selected a total of 150 pharmacies throughout the country that meet their test criteria.

These include having pharmacists trained for the trial, and providing services at night and on weekends. Pharmacists must also be able to cooperate with local gynecologists after women take the pills.