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Pediatrics. 2012 Apr;129(4):624-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-3760. Epub 2012 Mar 26.

Pharmacy communication to adolescents and their physicians regarding access to emergency contraception.

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Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.



Emergency contraception (EC) is an effective pregnancy prevention strategy. EC is available without a prescription to those aged 17 years or older. The objective of this study was to assess the accuracy of information provided to adolescents and their physicians when they telephone pharmacies to inquire about EC.


By using standardized scripts, female callers telephoned 943 pharmacies in 5 US cities posing as 17-year-old adolescents or as physicians calling on behalf of their 17-year-old patients. McNemar tests were used to compare outcomes between adolescent and physician callers.


Seven hundred fifty-nine pharmacies (80%) indicated to adolescent callers, and 766 (81%) to physician callers, that EC was available on the day of the call. However, 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. Pharmacies conveyed the correct age to dispense EC without a prescription in 431 adolescent calls (57%) and 466 physician calls (61%). Compared with physician callers, adolescent callers were put on hold more often (54% vs 26%) and spoke to self-identified pharmacists less often (3% vs 12%, P < .0001). When EC was not available, 36% and 33% of pharmacies called by adolescents and physicians respectively offered no additional suggestions on how to obtain it.


Most pharmacies report having EC in stock. However, misinformation regarding who can take EC, and at what age it is available without a prescription, is common. Such misinformation may create barriers to timely access.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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