Initiative to Raise Awareness, Understanding of Emergency Contraception

Access to Information, Prescriptions Offered by Internet and Telephone

March 31, 2003

 

Women can reduce the likelihood of unintended pregnancy without a trip to the doctor’s office through an initiative that opens access to emergency contraception.  This innovative program will be launched April 1 by physicians at the University of Rochester’s Reproductive Health Program. 

An intensive media campaign designed to help people understand what emergency contraception is, and that it is safe and effective in preventing unintended pregnancy, is the focus of the initiative. Savita Y. Ginde, M.D., a fellow in the University’s Reproductive Health and Family Planning Program, and Sara Frost, a third-year medical student at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, are involved in the six-month initiative.  The campaign will promote an Internet site and telephone number where free information and requests for prescriptions for emergency contraception will be offered.

“A key point we hope to make clear about emergency contraception is that these pills, when taken within three days of a sexual encounter, can actually prevent pregnancy,” says Dr. Ginde.   “Emergency contraception does not induce or cause the termination of an existing pregnancy; it works before pregnancy occurs.”  Emergency contraception comes in the form of pills that contain the hormones estrogen and/or progesterone and are taken in two doses.  It is 75 to 89 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when taken as recommended.  Two products, Preven and Plan B, were FDA approved as emergency contraceptives in 1998 and 1999 respectively.  Both are available in most pharmacies to women with prescriptions.

“Unfortunately, many women are unaware that emergency contraception is an approved option to prevent pregnancy,” Frost says.  “Ideally, a woman should have a prescription on hand so she can use these pills as soon as she needs them.  Emergency contraception is particularly useful as a back-up method of contraception, if a condom breaks, for example, and in unfortunate circumstances such as rape.”

The campaign to promote the emergency contraception telephone line and Internet site is a part of a two-month initiative during which emergency contraceptive requests will be accepted at no charge to women.  When they call or log on, they will first be given detailed information about emergency contraception, including what it is, when it is used, and how they can get it.  If they are interested in ordering it, they can follow the steps provided to submit the necessary personal and medical information a health-care provider needs to assess the need for a prescription and order one if appropriate.  Women also have the option of contacting their physician to request a prescription.

Once submitted online or by phone, requests are reviewed by a physician at the Reproductive Health Program.  If a prescription is appropriate, the physician calls in an order according to the woman’s instructions and she will be notified that the order has been placed.  Women who have the prescription filled are responsible for its cost, which ranges from $10 to $70 depending on the pharmacy. 

“We hope women will take this opportunity to learn more about emergency contraception by using the telephone or Internet emergency contraception prescription sites,” says Dr. Ginde.  “The process of ordering emergency contraception online is already available in other parts of the country, but those sites currently charge an average of $50 to review and process a request for a prescription,” says Ginde.  Some states, such as California, Washington and Alaska, have “open prescription” access where specially trained pharmacists are authorized to dispense emergency contraception without immediately involving a physician.  “The overall goal is to make women aware of all of their options and to make them easily accessible,” she adds.

To learn more about emergency contraception, call the Reproductive Health Research Clinic at (585) 341-6915 or log on to the program’s site on or after April 1 at www.ecASAP.org.  General information on emergency contraception is also available on the Web at www.backupyourbirthcontrol.org or www.not-2-late.com.

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