Pharmacy-based interventions for initiating effective contraception following the use of emergency contraception: a pilot study

Contraception. 2014 Oct;90(4):447-53. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2014.05.004. Epub 2014 May 14.


Objectives: In Scotland most women get emergency contraception (EC) from pharmacies. Pharmacists currently cannot provide effective ongoing contraception after EC. In this pilot study, we aimed to determine the feasibility of a larger study designed to ascertain if pharmacy-based interventions can increase the uptake of effective contraception after EC.

Study design: This is a pilot study of women presenting for levonorgestrel EC to community pharmacies in Edinburgh, UK, in 2012. Pharmacies were cluster randomized to provide either standard care or one of two interventions: (a) one packet of progestogen-only pills (POPs), giving women 1 month to arrange ongoing contraception; (b) invitation to present the empty EC packet to a family planning clinic (FPC) for contraceptive advice (rapid access).

Results: One hundred sixty-eight women were recruited from 11 pharmacies to POP (n=56), rapid access (n=58) and standard care (N=54) groups, respectively. Telephone follow-up was conducted successfully in 102 women (61%) 6-8 weeks later to determine current contraceptive use. In the POP arm, 35/39 (90%) women used the pills provided, and 9/28 women (32%) in the rapid access arm attended the FPC. The proportion of women using effective contraception at follow-up was significantly greater in both POP [56% (22/39), p=<0.001] and rapid access [52% (13/25), p=0.006] groups compared to standard care [16% (5/31)]. The relative probability of a woman using an effective method of contraception versus barrier/no method, after use of EC, was 3.13 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.90-5.13] in the POP group and 2.57 (95% CI, 1.55-4.27) in the rapid access group.

Conclusions: This promising pilot study suggests that simple pharmacy-based interventions may increase the uptake of effective contraception after EC. A larger study is required to provide further validation of these findings.

Implications statement: For women obtaining EC from a pharmacy, simple interventions such as supplying 1 month of a POP, or offering rapid access to a FPC, hold promise as strategies to increase the uptake of effective contraception after EC.

Keywords: LARC; Levonelle; Morning-after pill; POP; Quick-start.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Contraception Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Contraception, Postcoital*
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Contraceptives, Postcoital
  • Directive Counseling
  • Family Planning Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Levonorgestrel
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pharmacies*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Progestins / therapeutic use*
  • Scotland
  • Young Adult


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Contraceptives, Postcoital
  • Progestins
  • Levonorgestrel