Background: Although emergency contraceptive pills are available over the counter, the quality of consultation, including key areas of contraceptive counseling and prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STI), has not been well documented.
Objective: To evaluate actual pharmacist services while dispensing emergency contraception through a mystery shopper technique.
Material and methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted in 81 pharmacies situated in Delhi by 4 trained mystery shoppers posed as customers over a period of 6 months.
Results: None of the pharmacists asked about the time lapsed since last unprotected sexual intercourse or last menstrual period before deciding the eligibility of the customer. The majority were unclear about side effects associated with emergency contraception (78.57%) or with anticipated changes in menstrual flow (78.57%); 85.71% did not know whether subsequent unprotected intercourse would be protected. Only 15.71% counseled shoppers regarding risk of STI on asking leading questions and 88.5% did not provide any contraceptive advice.
Conclusion: There is a huge gap in the technical knowledge and mindset of the pharmacists when it comes to checking for the eligibility of the client and providing advice regarding use of regular contraception and barrier for protection from STI, which needs to be addressed in order to realize the full benefit of making emergency contraceptive pills available over the counter.
Keywords: Emergency contraception; mystery shopper; pharmacists.