NMA: Nonprescription Medicines Academy

Misinformation Regarding Emergency Contraception May Create Barriers to Access

May 1st, 2012

Pharmacies may not be providing accurate information about emergency contraception to adolescents and their physicians, thereby possibly creating barriers to timely access, according to the results of a telephone study.

The study included 943 commercial pharmacies in five 5 major U.S. cities. Two telephone calls were made to each pharmacy: one from a female caller posing as a 17-year-old adolescent, and one from a female caller posing as a physician calling on behalf of a 17-year-old patient. The callers used standardized scripts designed to simulate real-world calls and elicit specific information about emergency contraception availability and access.

Approximately 80% of the pharmacies indicated that emergency contraception was available on the day of the call. However, 145 pharmacies (19%) incorrectly told the adolescent callers that they would not be able to obtain emergency contraception under any circumstances; only 23 pharmacies (3%) provided that same misinformation to physician callers (P <0.0001). When callers asked about the age threshold for nonprescription access to emergency contraception, pharmacies conveyed the correct age (17 years) to 431 adolescent callers (57%) and 466 physician callers (61%). In all but 11 calls, the incorrect age was erroneously stated as too high.

Of the pharmacies that reported not having emergency contraception available on the day the call was made, slightly more than half either offered to order the medication or were able to order it on request (54% of pharmacies contacted by adolescent callers and 56% of pharmacies contacted by physician callers; P = 0.68). Approximately one third of the pharmacies offered no suggestions on how to obtain emergency contraception (36% of pharmacies contacted by adolescent callers and 33% of pharmacies contacted by physician callers; P = 0.47).

Pediatrics. 2012;129:624-9.