A new research report published in the journal Pediatrics says that US teens may have trouble accessing emergency contraception as pharmacists might give incorrect information to them over the phone.
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The researchers carried out a study to assess the precision of information available and provided to teenage girls and their physicians when they call pharmacies to inquire about emergency contraceptives.
Presumably, morning-after pills -- emergency contraceptive taken to prevent unwanted pregnancy -- are easily accessible without prescription at any pharmacy for those aged 17 years or older. However, the outcomes of the study are shocking.
To compare the variation in response to an adolescent questioner, the researchers phoned about 943 chains in five US cities (Nashville, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Austin, Portland and Oregon), once playing as a teenager and again as a physician of a minor patient.
Surprisingly, the answers varied to a great degree in the two cases. Nearly 80 percent of the respondents said they had EC in stock, but one in five teen callers were told that it was not possible to obtain EC anyhow, when they revealed their age.
I had heard anecdotal stories from my patients and also from other practitioners about adolescents really having difficulty obtaining emergency contraception… (But after seeing the results) I was shocked,” Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, lead author of the study and a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, told Reuters Health.
Also, many adolescent callers were put on hold, not responded to, or misinformed about the stock and were not offered any alternative if the pill was not available. However, the physician callers were given detailed information.
They were basically being told, 'You can't get it at all,' which is not true but also scary, because you would think maybe a teenager wouldn't call another pharmacy,” Wilkinson asserted.
This is a delicate topic, and it could be something that's very sensitive for the teenager calling, she said. If you don't give the right information or you're not willing to have a discussion about how to help get the medication, the adolescent might just give up.
The new study suggests that most pharmacies are confused about the age and conditions for taking the pill and if it could be sold without a prescription.
It implies that the emergency contraception, Plan B, is much easily accessible to women aged over 17 years or physicians than teenagers.