Objective To explore the views of community pharmacists in the North West of England towards the deregulation of emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) and to examine their support and training needs.
Design Two focus group discussions.
Subjects Fourteen community pharmacists, of whom eight were currently participating in a scheme to supply EHC free of charge through a patient group direction (PGD).
Results A number of themes emerged from the discussions, which appeared to influence participants' views towards the use of EHC and towards deregulation. A number of participants appeared to lack detailed knowledge about the mode of action of EHC and misunderstandings about this, coupled with erroneously held beliefs about the adverse effects of the drug, appeared to influence their attitudes to deregulation. Participants identified risks associated with pharmacy supply of EHC, both to women and to themselves, in the form of litigation. EHC was accorded a special status which seemed to go beyond its pharmacological properties and risk-benefit profile. A key and recurring theme was abuse, an ill-defined concept which appeared to refer to multiple or repeated use. It is interesting to note that none of those participants supplying EHC under a PGD could provide any examples of such abuse from their own experience.
Conclusions This small-scale study provides useful insights into the attitudes of these pharmacists towards EHC, the impact of increased availability of the drug, and the type of women who they believed would use EHC.
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