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J Am Med Womens Assoc. 2004 Winter;59(1):36-42.

Out-of-pocket expenditures for oral contraceptives and number of packs per purchase.

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  • 1School of Pharmacy and the Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco, USA.



Two potential barriers to use of oral contraceptives (OCPs) are out-of-pocket expenditures and the inconvenience of monthly pharmacy visits. This study used nationally representative data to examine the out-of-pocket costs of OCPs and whether women obtain more than 1 pack per purchase.


We used data from the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Dependent variables were out-of-pocket expenditures per pack and the number of packs obtained per purchase. Chi2 tests were used to examine the bivariate relationships between the dependent variables and covariates. Regression analyses were used to examine the predictors of OCP expenditures and the number of packs obtained per purchase.


Women paid an average of 14 dollars per pack of OCPs, and 73% obtained only 1 pack per purchase. On average, privately insured women paid 60% of the total expenditures for OCPs. Women who had no prescription drug coverage, who were uninsured, or who were privately insured but not in managed care plans had higher out-of-pocket expenditures. Women who were without prescription drug coverage or who were in managed care plans were more likely to obtain only 1 pack per purchase.


Out-of-pocket costs and dispensing restrictions may be barriers to consistent use of OCPs. Women's health care providers should consider options to overcome these barriers, such as the use of mail order prescription services.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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