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Matern Child Health J. 2000 Sep;4(3):203-8.

Reducing unintended pregnancy by increasing access to emergency contraceptive pills.

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  • 1Community and Family Health, Washington State Department of Health, Olympia, USA.



National and state data on the health, social, and economic consequences of unintended pregnancy prompted Washington policy makers to identify strategies to reduce such pregnancies. Though not well known, emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) are a safe and effective contraceptive method that can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hr after unprotected intercourse. A coalition conceived the idea of enabling pharmacists to prescribe ECPs directly to women through collaborative drug therapy agreements (CDTAs) with physicians.


Following a feasibility study, five agencies initiated a novel pilot project in western Washington. Key components included informing pharmacists about ECPs and CDTAs; developing tools, providing training, and developing systems to establish pharmacist/ prescriber collaborative agreements; conducting a public awareness campaign; evaluating the impact of the project; and disseminating the results.


More than 1000 pharmacists received training in all aspects of providing ECPs and 140 pharmacies participated in the project, with more than 145 CDTA on file. In the 16 months of pharmacy service provision, 11,969 ECP prescriptions were provided, possibly preventing 700 or more unintended pregnancies. The media launch led to 200 broadcast stories and increased calls to the ECP Hotline from 116 to an average of 1160 per month.


Enabling pharmacists to provide ECPs directly to women is a convenient delivery system for a time-limited therapy. It increases the chances that women will use the therapy effectively and connects women without a provider to a source of care. By increasing access to an effective contraceptive, this projects supports the Washington State goal of reducing unintended pregnancy.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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