For the first time, England will sell an over-the-counter antibiotic, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The azithromycin pill, which is sold as Clamelle by Icelandic manufacturer Actavis and is used to fight chlamydia, is designed for people 16 and older who have tested positive for the sexually transmitted disease but don’t necessarily have symptoms.
"Today's move means that symptom-free people diagnosed with chlamydia and their partner[s] will be able to get convenient effective treatment from their local pharmacy," said June Raine, director of vigilance and risk management of medicine at Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Chlamydia is known as the "silent" disease because three-quarters of infected women and about half of infected men do not exhibit symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If symptoms do appear, they become apparent within one to three weeks after exposure. Symptoms for females may include an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation during urination, abdominal pain, nausea, fever, painful intercourse or bleeding in between periods.
For men, symptoms may include a discharge from the penis or burning sensation when urinating, as well as itching around the opening of the penis.
If left untreated, however, chlamydia can cause serious health complications such as infertility and ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when the fetus develops outside the uterus.
England is encouraging self-medication as a way to cut state health care bills. The country allows over-the-counter sales of drugs to treat high cholesterol, migraines and eye infections.