In an action that underlined who holds power and what their attitudes are, Tokyo this week officially recommended that the birth-control pill be allowed to be prescribed as a contraceptive in Japan.

The move has been under study, discussion and debate for nine years.Formal approval is expected by the end of the month, and officials said the pill could actually go on sale by autumn.

This week's action was taken in the wake of the Japanese government's decision earlier this year to authorize the use of Viagra, the anti-impotency drug.

That approval process took six months.

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