Emergency contraception over-the-counter: practices and attitudes of pharmacists and pharmacy assistants in far North Queensland

Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2011 Dec;51(6):527-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-828X.2011.01347.x. Epub 2011 Jul 19.


Background: Emergency contraception (EC) has been available as a Schedule 3 (over-the-counter, OTC) medication through Australian pharmacies since 2004. This study aimed to describe OTC EC dispensing services in pharmacies in the Cairns and Hinterland Health Service District and to explore the knowledge and attitudes of pharmacy staff. The study findings will assist in developing resources to support pharmacy staff in their OTC EC provision role.

Study design: We conducted semi-structured interviews with pharmacy managers and pharmacists to determine the availability, cost, dispensing processes and distribution estimates of EC and anonymous surveys of pharmacy staff to examine their knowledge and attitudes.

Results: Forty-six (88%) of the 52 local pharmacies participated; 43 (93%) provide OTC EC at an average cost of $28.95. One hundred and forty-five staff surveys were completed. Few pharmacists identified Family Planning Queensland (FPQ) or the Cairns Sexual Health Service (CSHS) as referral options for women not meeting the dispensing criteria. A range of written information is provided to EC customers by 23 (53%) of pharmacies.

Conclusions: This study has documented OTC EC dispensing services in the District and identified areas for improvement. A working group has been established to oversee the development and distribution of customer information packs and information for pharmacists on referral options.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Checklist
  • Contraceptives, Postcoital / economics
  • Contraceptives, Postcoital / supply & distribution*
  • Family Planning Services
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nonprescription Drugs / economics
  • Nonprescription Drugs / supply & distribution*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Pharmacies
  • Pharmacists*
  • Queensland
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Rural Health Services
  • Urban Health Services
  • Young Adult


  • Contraceptives, Postcoital
  • Nonprescription Drugs