Pharmacy access to ulipristal acetate in Hawaii: is a prescription enough?

Contraception. 2016 May;93(5):452-4. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2015.12.003. Epub 2015 Dec 12.


Objective: To determine pharmacy availability of ulipristal acetate (UPA) and compare to availability of levonorgestrel-containing emergency contraceptive pills (LNG-ECPs).

Methods: We conducted an observational population-based study utilizing a telephone-based secret shopper methodology. Researchers called all 198 unique retail pharmacies in Hawaii on December 2013-June 2014, representing themselves as patients and physicians.

Results: Only 2.6% of pharmacies had UPA immediately available, though 22.8% reported ability to order UPA. In contrast, 82.4% reported immediate availability of LNG-ECPs. No significant difference in availability was reported to patients and physicians.

Conclusions: Availability of UPA is limited and significantly lower compared to LNG-ECPs. The study period did overlap with a change in distributor for UPA, likely capturing some disruption of the supply chain.

Implications: Systems-based interventions are needed to address barriers to obtaining UPA.

Keywords: Availability; Emergency contraception; Hawaii; Pharmacies; Ulipristal acetate; United States.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Contraceptive Agents / supply & distribution*
  • Contraceptives, Postcoital / supply & distribution*
  • Female
  • Hawaii
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Levonorgestrel / supply & distribution*
  • Norpregnadienes / supply & distribution*
  • Pharmacies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Contraceptive Agents
  • Contraceptives, Postcoital
  • Norpregnadienes
  • Levonorgestrel
  • ulipristal acetate