Chlamydia antibiotic available over-the-counter in the UK

For the first time sufferers in the UK from the common sexually transmitted infection (STI) chlamydia will be able to buy an antibiotic to treat the infection over-the-counter (OTC), without a prescription from a doctor.

Chlamydia is a widespread problem in the UK and in many other countries and the soaring rates of infection has alarmed health experts.

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection and young people account for two thirds of all new cases.

Because up to 70% of sufferers often have no symptoms, it is known as the "silent infection", and left untreated it can cause serious long-term health complications, including infertility, ectopic pregnancy and cancer.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has given approval for Clamelle (Azithromycin) to be made available over-the-counter later this year.

People will however have to provide evidence of an infection in the form of positive test results or proof they are at risk from having sex with someone who has tested positive.

According to the FPA (Family Planning Association), an increasing number of men and women are getting tested for chlamydia at their pharmacy and some are given the test by the pharmacist to do at home.

The drug will still be available via the traditional route - either from a GP or a genito-urinary medicine clinic.

The MHRA and pharmacists say the reclassification of the drug in the UK as an OTC medicine will offer a more convenient alternative for some patients.

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