One study finds that emergency contraception is less available in some rural pharmacies

One study finds that emergency contraception is less available in some rural pharmacies

One in 4 pharmacists in Georgia said emergency contraception was not available at the store and dropped the call.

According to research from the University of Georgia, patients in Georgia, and particularly those in rural cities, may have difficulty finding emergency contraception in pharmacies.

Emergency contraception is a time-sensitive drug that must be taken immediately after intercourse to be effective. However, according to the study, only 57 percent of pharmacies in Georgia stocked levonorgestrel (Plan B). In addition, less than 1% reported using the most effective prescription emergency contraceptive ulipristal acetate (Ella).

Additionally, rural pharmacies were less likely to have levonorgestrel than stores in metropolitan areas. This lack of availability reflects historical challenges for women in rural and low-income areas seeking access to preventative care, including contraception. The findings suggest that poor access to emergency contraception could exacerbate the already high rates of unwanted and adolescent pregnancies in rural areas.

“Access to reproductive care can sometimes be difficult, particularly in the south,” lead author Rebecca Stone said in a press release. “Georgia has worse reproductive care outcomes than many other parts of the country, such as higher rates of unwanted pregnancy and maternal mortality. Emergency contraception is like other reproductive health services: we must take steps to ensure equal access for everyone in our state. “

In the study, the researchers contacted 518 pharmacies in metropolitan and rural areas of Georgia. Pharmacists were asked if the store had “something like this [they could] use after sex in order not to get pregnant.

Most pharmacists discussed Plan B with the caller, regardless of whether it was available at the pharmacy. More than 10% of those who did not stock it still advised the patient and offered to order the drug or referred him to another pharmacy that may have the drug. However, 1 in 4 pharmacists said emergency contraception was not available in the store and dropped the call.

Of the pharmacists who discussed Plan B as an option with the caller, 80% said the drug would not work or were unsure if it would work after 72 hours. Although this follows the information in the package insert, this is outdated information. Plan B is most effective in the first 3 days after intercourse, but can still help prevent pregnancy for up to 5 days, according to the study.

“In our current environment, pharmacists are extremely busy and may find it difficult to spend a lot of time answering patient questions and continuing to do their jobs,” Stone said in the news release. “They often rely on the information in the manufacturer’s package insert to answer questions and, in this case, they are not entirely accurate. I think it unfairly induces pharmacists to provide inaccurate information ”.

The study authors noted that in many European countries, ulipristal acetate is sold OTC. However, the United States is often slower to grant drugs OTC status, and reproductive health drugs receive an extra layer of scrutiny than other drugs. As a result, many health professionals are not even aware that there is an alternative to Plan B.

Less than 2% of the pharmacists contacted in the study mentioned ulipristal acetate as an option for emergency contraception and only 0.4% told the caller it was available at their pharmacy. A follow-up call showed that around 3% of pharmacists actually had the drug in stock.

“She works better at preventing pregnancy than Plan B, particularly for women who are overweight or who use emergency contraception 4 to 5 days after intercourse,” Stone said in the news release. “But studies have shown that many doctors don’t know this drug is available. Patients don’t know. And our research has shown that most Georgia pharmacists don’t know either. “

Stone added that he is working with industry partners to offer continuing education courses on emergency contraception.

“I am a strong advocate of pharmacist-prescribed contraception and emergency contraception because it expands patient access to these products,” Stone said in the news release. “In states where pharmacists prescribe these products, pharmacists have greater opportunities to keep their clinical skills fresh with continuing education courses developed as part of their state prescribing protocols. And if they’re prescribing it, they’re more likely to keep it in stock. “


Emergency contraception is difficult to find in Georgia, in rural pharmacies. Press release. Eurek Alert; February 10, 2022. Accessed February 11, 2022.

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