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PJ Online | News: Pharmacists believe EHC is too costly

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The Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 270 No 7247 p603
3 May 2003

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Royal College of Nursing Congress 2003 (more)
Isis Research (

Pharmacists believe EHC is too costly

Too expensive for teenagers?

Three-quarters of community pharmacists questioned about emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) believe it is too expensive for teenagers.

Market research company Isis Research found that 76 per cent of its 50-member panel of pharmacists believe the current over-the-counter price is prohibitive for teenagers. Levonelle (levonorgestrel) has a recommended retail price of £24. Its price was increased from £19.99 in September last year.

The survey also found that most purchasers of EHC were not teenagers. In the survey, 76 per cent said that their average EHC customer was in the 20?29-year-old bracket. Only 18 per cent said 16?18 years and 6 per cent 30?39 years. Most pharmacists (70 per cent) were in favour of retaining the restriction on selling EHC to girls under the age of 16 years.

Corinne Wilkins, a researcher at Isis, suggested that it might be time to reassess whether the price is too high. "While it is unlikely that price alone is putting teenagers off asking for [EHC], it may well be a contributory factor," she said.

The survey was reported in the Daily Telegraph on 28 April.

The availability of EHC was one of the topics being debated at the Royal College of Nursing's congress in Harrogate this week. A motion put forward by the RCN's adolescent health forum called for regulation of assessment for EHC. The group suggested that an assessment tool for use before the provision of EHC should be developed.

According to a report in The Observer newspaper on 27 April, the subject of EHC remains controversial among nurses. Some believe that "quizzing young girls in a crowded pharmacy does not allow the time and privacy to go through preventive health messages about unprotected sex or risky behaviour".

A spokeswoman for Schering Health Care, manufacturer of Levonelle, told The Journal that the Isis survey supported the company's own research which found the average age of a woman purchasing Levonelle is 28 years. She is most likely to be an urban resident and affluent. "Levonelle costs £24 from pharmacies. The price has been set, in part, to ensure that EHC is not used as a regular method of contraception."

She added that ongoing training for pharmacists would ensure that they and their staff are comfortable with handling requests for EHC. In response to The Observer report, she said that pharmacists are health care professionals who are specifically trained to carry out consultations for EHC.

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