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1 in 5 Pharmacies Hinders Teens' Access to 'Morning-After' Pill: Study
Date:3/26/2012

on under any circumstances, while 3 percent of physicians were told their 17-year-old patient could not obtain it.

"Not just the callers posing as 17-year-olds, but the physicians were given wrong information by the pharmacy workers about over-the-counter access to emergency contraception," said Dr. Deborah Nucatola, an ob-gyn and senior director of medical services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "This kind of misinformation can result in preventable, unintended pregnancy."

About 85 percent of the roughly 750,000 teenage pregnancies in the United States each year are unintentional, the researchers noted.

Slightly more than half of workers in pharmacies that didn't have emergency contraception on hand said they could order the medication, but about one-third offered no additional information about how girls or doctors could get it. Also, the teen callers were put on hold more often than doctors and talked less often to pharmacists, the study found.

Researchers do not know if any pharmacy workers intentionally misled the girls, or if they simply don't know the law.

In 2011, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that younger teens be permitted to obtain emergency contraception without a prescription, but that was overruled by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Emergency contraception is a high dose of progestin that prevents pregnancy by delaying ovulation (when the egg leaves the ovary and travels into the fallopian tube where it's available for fertilization by sperm). Some research suggests emergency contraception may make it more difficult for sperm to get past the cervix and into the uterus, and may make the uterus less hospitable to sperm.

Although the drug can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex, it becomes less effective the longer women wait. For every 12-hour delay in taking the first dose, the odds of preg
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