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Keywords:

  • emergency contraception;
  • nonprescription drugs;
  • over-the-counter drugs;
  • health care delivery;
  • contraceptive availability;
  • community pharmacy services;
  • access to health care;
  • adolescents

Family planning remains a high priority area for the United States, with goals to increase the proportion of pregnancies that are intended, reduce pregnancy rates among adolescents, and increase contraceptive use prioritized in the Healthy People 2020 objectives. Contraception intended for use after unprotected intercourse, known as emergency contraception, remains underutilized. Levonorgestrel is one method of oral emergency contraception, which prevents fertilization and does not disrupt an already established pregnancy; thus, timing of administration is critical. Despite data demonstrating safety and efficacy, evidence-based decision making has been overshadowed by politically charged actions involving levonorgestrel emergency contraception for over a decade. The Women's Health Practice and Research Network of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy supports expanded access to levonorgestrel emergency contraception and removal of barriers such as age restrictions on the nonprescription drug product. Pharmacists remain a key provider of emergency contraceptive services and can help ensure timely access. In states where direct pharmacy access to emergency contraception is available, pharmacists are encouraged to participate. Education, research, and advocacy are other important responsibilities for pharmacists in this arena.