Austin, TX—Many pharmacies still haven’t gotten in line with altered regulations on the “morning-after pill,” a new study reports, and staff generally lacks the knowledge to offer any consultation prior to purchase.

That’s according to a presentation at the Pediatric Academic Societies 2018 Meeting held in Toronto.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Texas, evaluated the availability of levonorgestrel (LNG) 1.5-mg oral tablet in Texas, as well as gauging knowledge of pharmacy staff about the medication.

Background information in the study notes that emergency contraception in the form of LNG has been available OTC for more than a decade in the U.S. and without an age limit for 5 years. 

Yet researchers report that nearly half—46.5%—of more than 700 pharmacies surveyed in Texas have an age requirement for purchase, and more than 50% require some type of consultation prior to purchase. That is a problem, according to study authors, because pharmacy staff knowledge was found to be inadequate.

“Texas has the fifth highest rate of teen pregnancy and the highest rate of repeat teen pregnancy in the U.S., but comprehensive sex education and contraception services are not readily available to all adolescents across the state, thus emergency contraception is often used as a substitute for more effective contraceptive methods,” said lead author Maria Monge, MD.

For the study, 771 pharmacy employees (97% pharmacists or pharmacy techs) of 1,203 pharmacies contacted verbally consented to participate and answered at least one question about emergency contraception.

LNG EC was found to be available in 76.1% of pharmacies, with 6.3% requiring a prescription to obtain it. Researchers determined that only 10% of pharmacy staff members recognized that use of LNG emergency contraception might have a weight limit, while only 1% knew that the medication could be used up to 120 hours after unprotected intercourse.

“Despite OTC status without age requirement, barriers exist for Texas adolescents seeking LNG EC,” study authors conclude. “While preliminary, results of this study reveal a need to proactively educate patients and pharmacy staff regarding LNG EC.”

“As Texas faces ongoing challenges in improving maternal health outcomes and decreasing teen pregnancy rates, removing barriers so that adolescents may more easily access over-the-counter emergency contraception is an important piece of this puzzle that deserves additional attention,” Monge advised.