As regulatory status of levonorgestrel emergency contraception has changed over the years, there has been increased confusion about how emergency contraception can be sold. Study authors distributed an online questionnaire to assess whether levonorgestrel emergency contraception was sold in accordance with current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.  Findings are published in Women’s Health Issues. 

The questionnaire was sent through an emergency contraception-focused listserv of reproductive health professionals. Data collectors were asked to visit local stores and record product names, price, over-the-counter (OTC) shelf availability, and misinformation about age restrictions.  

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Data from about 220 stores were collected. The analysis showed that the majority of stores (65%) stocked emergency contraception on OTC shelves although only 22% displayed them without a locked security enclosure. Emergency contraception was more likely to be shelf-stocked in chain pharmacies vs. independent pharmacies (77% vs. 5%) but variation did exist among stores within the same chain. 

Moreover, 40% of stores reported an incorrect age restriction for non-prescription purchase of levonorgestrel emergency contraception. Ninety-five percent of stores did correctly report that men can purchase these products. The average cost of branded levonorgestrel emergency contraception was $49.64 and $40.05 for generic. 

the authors concluded high prices may contribute to hindrances in accessing emergency contraception. Stores should ensure that consumers can access these products quickly and easily by having stock on their OTC shelves and educating staff about current regulations. 

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