MONDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly one in five U.S. pharmacies gave out misinformation to researchers posing as 17-year-old girls seeking emergency contraception, often saying that it was "impossible" for girls to get the pill, a new study finds.
About 3 percent of researchers posing as physicians also received wrong information about the availability of emergency contraception, also known as the "morning-after" pill.
The findings show that 17-year-olds in need of emergency contraception to prevent unintended pregnancy face significant barriers in accessing it, the study authors said. According to U.S. federal regulations, girls 17 and older can buy emergency contraception without a prescription if they show proof of age, while girls 16 and younger need a doctor's prescription.
"What we found was that emergency contraception was pretty available, in that 80 percent had it on the shelf that day," said lead study author Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, a general pediatrics fellow at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center. "However, when teenagers asked if they could get the medicine, they were [sometimes] told they couldn't get it at all, not with a prescription, not over-the-counter, just simply based on their age."
The study, published online March 26, appears in the April print issue of Pediatrics.
In the study, researchers called all the commercial pharmacies in five major U.S. cities: Austin, Texas; Cleveland; Nashville, Tenn.; Philadelphia; and Portland, Ore. Each of the 943 pharmacies got called twice, once by a "17-year-old girl" and once by a "physician." Researchers spoke to pharmacists, pharmacy technicians or unidentified pharmacy staff.
Four in five callers were told the pharmacy had emergency contraception in stock. However, 19 percent of 17-year-old callers were told that they could not obtain emergency contracepti
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