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Am J Public Health. 2010 Jun;100(6):1130-6. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.179887. Epub 2010 Apr 15.

Clinic versus over-the-counter access to oral contraception: choices women make along the US-Mexico border.

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  • 1Population Research Center, 1 University Station G1800, Austin, TX 78712, USA.



As part of the Border Contraceptive Access Study, we interviewed oral contraceptive (OC) users living in El Paso, Texas, to assess motivations for patronizing a US clinic or a Mexican pharmacy with over-the-counter (OTC) pills and to determine which women were likely to use the OTC option.


We surveyed 532 clinic users and 514 pharmacy users about background characteristics, motivations for choosing their OC source, and satisfaction with this source.


Older women and women born and educated in Mexico were more likely to patronize pharmacies. Cost of pills was the main motivation for choosing their source for 40% of pharmacy users and 23% of clinic users. The main advantage cited by 49% of clinic users was availability of other health services. Bypassing the requirement to obtain a doctor's prescription was most important for 27% of pharmacy users. Both groups were very satisfied with their pill source.


Women of different ages, parities, and educational levels would likely take advantage of an OTC option were OCs available at low cost. Improving clinic provision of OCs should be considered.

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