It’s legal for 17-year-olds to go to the pharmacy and buy emergency contraception like Plan B, but that isn’t stopping pharmacy workers from lying to teens and telling them they’re too young for it, says an undercover survey included in a new study.
MSNBC says a report in the journal Pediatrics found that pharmacists would lie to girls seeking emergency contraception, but then proffer the correct information when a doctor called about obtaining the drug for a 17-year-old patient.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, says she thinks once teens are told they can’t get the medication, they won’t call another pharmacy and will instead just give up. Proponents of products like Plan B think emergency contraception could help prevent half of all unplanned teen pregnancies.
The study sought to assess the availability of Plan B and others, which can be purchased by women (and men, for that matter) 17 and over without a prescription. Researchers posed as either teens or doctors, and called every pharmacy in five U.S. cities asking about emergency contraception.
When asked whether a pharmacy had the medication in stock, 80% of 943 said they did. If a researcher posing as a teen asked if she could get it, 19% were told no, not under any circumstances. Those acting as doctors were only told no 3% of the time.
Teen callers who were told they could get it asked: “My friends said there is an age rule [regarding access without a prescription] — do you know what it is?” and pharmacy employees answered incorrectly 43% of the time. Teens spoke more often to lower level pharmacy employees, whereas doctors usuall got actual pharmacists on the phone.
The study’s lead researcher says she hopes it will raise awareness about misinformation being provided to teens, saying, “This was disappointing. I hope this study will instigate some sort of change on all fronts, for teenagers, pharmacists, staff and also clinicians.”