Provision of potentially teratogenic medications to female veterans of childbearing age

Med Care. 2010 Sep;48(9):834-42. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3181e57946.


Background: Certain medications increase the risk of birth defects whether used during pregnancy or immediately preconception.

Objectives: To describe dispensing of potentially teratogenic medications (Food and Drug Administration classes D or X) to female Veterans treated by the Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System, and assess whether documented provision of family planning services is more common when potentially teratogenic medications are prescribed.

Research design: We examined all 2,634,441 prescriptions filled in fiscal year 2007 or 2008 by 78,232 female Veterans, aged 18 to 45, who made >or=2 visits to VA clinics within the year prior to medication dispensing from VA pharmacies.

Measures: : Medications dispensed, contraceptive counseling, and pregnancy testing.

Results: Prescriptions for potentially teratogenic medications were filled by 48.8% of female Veterans who received medications from a VA pharmacy. Women who filled prescriptions for potentially teratogenic medications were only slightly more likely to have documented family planning services (eg, contraception, contraceptive counseling, or pregnancy testing) than women who filled class C, but not class D or X, prescriptions (55.7% vs. 51.8%). Women filling only class A or B prescriptions were least likely to have documented family planning services (35.9%). Among women dispensed potentially teratogenic medications, family planning services were significantly more likely to be documented for women who were >or=25 years (odds ratio [OR], 2.82; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.57-3.11), unmarried (OR, 1.30; 95% CI, 1.23-1.35), non-White (OR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.09-1.26), seen at a women's clinic (OR, 1.96; 95% CI, 1.88-2.05), received a retinoid medication (OR, 7.72; 95% CI, 3.02-19.7), or had serious mental illness (OR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.18-1.34).

Conclusions: Medications that may cause birth defects if used during pregnancy are dispensed frequently to female Veterans by VA pharmacies without documented receipt of contraceptive counseling or pregnancy testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Family Planning Services
  • Female
  • Forms and Records Control
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Teratogens
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult


  • Teratogens