Pharmacies Are Giving Inaccurate Information About Plan B to Teens

There are some people out there who really don’t want young women to have access to contraception. A new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health has found that a good chunk of pharmacies aren’t giving teens the right information about emergency contraception.

Posing as 17-year-old girls, the researchers called 940 pharmacies in Nashville, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Austin, and Portland, OR. What they found is both shocking and entirely unsurprising, if that’s possible. The researchers posing as teens were told by 20 percent of the pharmacies they called that teens couldn’t get an emergency contraceptive at all. This, of course, is untrue. In addition, only about half of the remaining 80 percent got the age requirement right.

This study was completed before the age restriction was lifted for one type of emergency contraception, Plan B One-Step. I’d like to give pharmacies the benefit of the doubt. As Think Progress reports, there is still a brand of EC that requires women of all ages to get a prescription. But really, it’s the pharmacy’s job to know this kind of thing, so giving them the benefit of the doubt is probably letting them off too easy.

Besides, there seemed to be a lot of general confusion surrounding Plan B that just shouldn’t be there. According to Think Progress,

Some pharmacists incorrectly told teens that they needed to be accompanied by a parent or guardian if they wanted to buy Plan B. Some said that they didn’t stock the contraceptive at all for moral or ethical reasons. But mostly, there was a lot of confusion over the regulations surrounding the morning after pill — the researchers were told that they needed to be 18 years old, or they needed to be female, or they needed a prescription.

You know, I think I’m going to start a pharmacy that doesn’t sell blood pressure medication, because you should have really thought about the consequences before eating that triple cheeseburger and smoking that cigarette. There needs to be some personal responsibility, people!

I can’t help but feel for teenagers. Adults simply don’t know how to deal with them. Not quite children, not quite adults. I even referred earlier in the post to “17-year-old girls.” Should I have written “17-year-old women?” They are certainly closer to the latter than the former.

And teen sexuality? Forget about it! It’s easier to just ignore it or pretend that abstinence-only education works than confront the very real possibility that teenagers are having sex with each other.

If we care about our teens, we need to start being more open about this stuff. Teen pregnancy rates go down if teens have access to contraceptives. Preventing teenagers from getting pregnant isn’t something we should be doing just because, either. Teen pregnancy has negative impacts on the economy and the educational achievements of the teenage mother. Even the lives of the child are negatively effected. According to the CDC, the children of teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of high school, have more health problems, go to jail, have problems finding a job and perpetuate the cycle by giving birth as a teenager themselves.

So we know that giving teens accurate information about and access to contraception is a good thing for everyone involved, yet we still get weird about it. You would think that the one place teens could get accurate information is from the pharmacy. Our teenagers deserve better than this.

Image credit: TipsTimesAdmin via Flickr


Jim V
Jim Ven2 years ago


Jerome S
Jerome S2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

barbara kelly
Barbara kelly5 years ago

thanks for sharing

Koty Lapid
Koty Lapid5 years ago

Thank you for your article.

Don Swanz
Don Swanz5 years ago

Apparently a few of you have forgotten that a few years - maybe a wee bit longer - back, that there were numerous pharmacists NATION WIDE who simply refused to fill and/or dispense any and all types of 'birth control" RX's because it was against their religious beliefs. Don and WE CAN! :-))

sharyn w.
sharyn w5 years ago

I wonder how many employees behind the pharmacy counter refuse to ring up tobacco products and liquor when someone is picking up and/or paying for a prescription or over the counter drug?

sharyn w.
sharyn w5 years ago

Always ask for the licensed registered pharmacist where you are more likely to get more informed information. If the info still seems inadequate or incorrect notify Corporate headquarters if it's a chain drugstore to see if all their pharmacies stock the drug you need and if not ask why not. If it's a privately owned pharmacy speak to the owner. If all this doesn't suit you consult with a qualified attorney. Every female that has a right to this drug should be able to get it in the manner the law specifies. Females are being raped by males they know well like family members(fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers and other blood relatives. By spouses, boyfriends,friends of their mothers, siblings, in-laws etc. Not to mention all the other males who rape including their boyfriends, friends (acquaintance rape)and other non-blood related males. Even when rape is not a factor many females and males want to avoid an unwanted pregnancy if at all possible. Some people who're opposed to this on religious, moral grounds or any other reason might be legally able to refuse to sell this drug I don't know. It seems the courts will have to intervene once again. especially Giving out incorrect and/or misleading information about a legal drug at a(behind the counter employees) a pharmacy seems criminal in my opinion and the person(s) including the pharmacists on duty at the time and all others up the chain of command must be held accountable. There is a limited amount of time for this drug

Drusilla P.
Drusilla P5 years ago

My neighbourhood's far from being perfect, but pharmacists doing such things here would lose their jobs, pay fines and might end up in jail, as well - and that's as it should be.
When you choose a job, you don't get to ignore the bits you don't like (in most cases, at least).

Thanks for the info.

Chaoti Huang
Chaoti Huang5 years ago


Freya T.
Freya H5 years ago

Abstinence-only "sex ed" is an oxymoron. Preaching abstinence as the only acceptable form of birth control fails for the same reason Communism fails - neither takes human nature into consideration. Teens are going to f--- no matter what we tell them, even if we scream at them day and night. The only way to prevent teenage pregnancy is to keep boys and girls totally separate, under lock and key. Who would gladly put his/her child in a condition tantamount to prison? Kids need to learn the "facts of life." Study after study after study indicates that realistic sex education access to birth control = fewer teen pregnancies.