Background: We could find no previous published review of the evidence relating to pharmacy supply of emergency hormonal contraception (EHC). Our objectives were to review, summarize and evaluate the peer-reviewed evidence relating to community pharmacy supply of EHC both in the UK and internationally.
Methods: Systematic searches were conducted for peer-reviewed international research from January 1990 to January 2005. The UK Health Development Agency's Evidence Base 2000 standards and the evidence categories used by the UK Department of Health were applied to each paper.
Results: We included 24 peer-reviewed papers. There was one randomized controlled trial (RCT); the remainder of the studies were qualitative or observational studies. Pharmacy supply of EHC enables most women to receive it within 24 h of unprotected sexual intercourse. Services were highly rated by women. One RCT showed that improving access to EHC did not reduce the use of other contraceptives, lead to an increase in risky sexual behaviour or increase the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Users expressed some concerns about the appropriateness of receiving additional pharmacist advice regarding future contraception use and STIs. One study found pharmacy supply had led to a decrease in attendances at accident and emergency departments.
Conclusion: There is good evidence that community pharmacy EHC services provide timely access to treatment and are highly rated by women.