Pharmacy Communication Regarding Access to EC for Adolescents

In Pharmacy Communication Regarding Access to Emergency Contraception for Adolescents, published in Pediatrics, authors Wilkinson, et al, explored the many ways that the emergency contraception (EC) pill might be used effectively as a pregnancy prevention strategy.  As it currently stands, EC is nationally available without a prescription to women who are at least 17 years of age.  The authors in this study chose to focus on assessing the  accuracy of information provided to adolescents and their physicians regarding EC by a large sample of pharmacists.

The authors had female research assistants pose both as 17-year-old adolescents seeking EC or as physicians calling on behalf of their patients.  Using standardized scripts, these callers telephoned over 940 pharmacies in 5 US cities, assessing both pharmacist disclosure and accuracy of information given pertaining to EC.  The results were promising.

Analysis showed that the high majority of physicans disclosed both to adolescent callers and their doctors that EC was available on the day of the call.  In fact, seven hundred fifty-nine pharmacies (80%) indicated to adolescent callers, and seven hundred and fifty six (81%) to physician callers, that legally the 17-year-old girls could obtain the medication.  This appears, at first, to be good news.  However, this also means that roughly twenty percent of pharmacists incorrectly told the callers that the young women could not receive EC  in both scenarios.  145 pharmacies (19%) incorrectly told the adolescent callers that it would be impossible  to obtain EC under any circumstances, compared with 23 pharmacies (3%) for physician callers.  This equates to two of every ten women seeking EC being misinformed.

In the end, most pharmacies did accurately report having EC available to 17-year-olds.  However, a good number of young women may be continually misinformed about the availability of EC.

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