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Since 2009 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mandated that Plan B and other emergency contraceptives be available without a prescription to women age 17 and up. In reality, a new study suggests, a 17-year-old's access to these drugs can be uncertain.
In the study, two female research assistants at Boston University called every commercial pharmacy in five major cities and asked whether emergency contraception was available to them that day. If the answer was yes, they followed up with the question "If I'm 17, is that okay?"
At that point, 19% of the pharmacy workers told the young women that contraception would not be available to them. When researchers posing as doctors called the same pharmacies on behalf of a (fictional) 17-year-old patient, however, just 3% of pharmacies said the drugs weren't available.
Pharmacies, moreover, incorrectly reported the age guidelines for over-the-counter access to 43% of the "girls" and 39% of the "doctors," according to the study, which appears in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.