(HealthDay News) – Female adolescents requesting emergency contraception (EC) at pharmacies are often given incorrect information, partly due to confusion about changing regulations, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Tracey A. Wilkinson, MD, MPH, from the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and colleagues had female callers posing as 17-year-old adolescents call 943 pharmacies in five U.S. cities (Nashville [Tennessee], Philadelphia, Cleveland, Austin [Texas], and Portland [Oregon]) using a standard script. The authors note that the most recent regulatory change in June 2013 made the name-brand form of EC available over-the-counter without age restrictions or identification requirements.
The researchers found that pharmacy policies on EC availability were often explained in personal or religious ethical terms and there was confusion about dispensing regulations due to the recent policy changes. False barriers to EC access were often introduced, which were used to justify refusing to dispense EC in some cases, while pharmacy staff helped to overcome the barriers in other cases. Confidentiality in providing EC ranged from guaranteed strict confidentiality to incorrectly telling adolescents that their parents had to be informed.
“Adolescents requesting EC from pharmacies are often explained pharmacy policies in ethics-laden terms, and confidentiality is not always guaranteed,” Wilkinson and colleagues conclude. “They are told of false barriers to EC access, and there is confusion concerning the evolving policies regarding EC dispensing.”