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Study: Most Women Understand Use of Emergency Contraceptives Enough For Over-The-Counter Sale

A study appearing in this month’s issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology reported that the majority of women reading an over-the-counter prototype label for emergency contraception (EC) understand 11 key points related to the drug’s effective and safe use. The study concluded that the high comprehensibility of the label demonstrates that “[t]he characteristics of this product clearly justify consideration for over-the-counter distribution.” Women’s Capital Corporation intends to seek over-the counter-distribution for its EC Plan B. The study, which interviewed 663 women 12 to 50 years old Ñ one-fifth of whom had an eighth-grade or lower literacy level Ñ found that more than 93 percent of the women understood four important drug criteria: EC is indicated to prevent pregnancy following unprotected sexual intercourse; the first dose should optimally be administered within 72 hours after intercourse; EC does not prevent HIV infection and pregnant women should not take EC. Eighty-five percent of the participants grasped seven out of 11 “communications objectives.” EC has the potential to prevent up to one-half of the 3 million unintended pregnancies in the US each year, but very few women are aware of this option. Only 2 percent of women aged 18 to 44 had ever used EC according to a 2000 survey, and few physicians discuss this option with their patients. Women also need a prescription to obtain EC in every state in the nation except California and Washington, but EC is only effective 72 hours after intercourse, making the wait for a prescription an insurmountable barrier to using EC effectively. When used correctly, EC reduces the risk of pregnancy up to 89 percent. The Feminist Majority has launched a nationwide campaign to make EC available over-the-counter and to increase access to EC on college campuses. To learn how you can become involved, visit www.PrescribeChoice.org.

Sources:

Kaisernetwork.org 8/28/02; Feminist Majority