April 2004

Do Mexico City pharmacy workers screen women for health risks when they sell contraceptive pills over-the-counter?

Becker D, Garcia S, Ellertson C. Do Mexico City pharmacy workers screen women for health risks when they sell contraceptive pills over-the-counter? Contraception. April 2004; 69(4):295-299.

CONTEXT: In Mexico, oral contraceptives (OCs) are available to women over-the-counter in pharmacies. While past research has suggested that nonmedical providers, such as pharmacy workers, are capable of screening women for contraindications to OCs, little is known about their practices.

METHODS:  After selecting a 10% random sample of all pharmacies in Mexico City (n = 108), we surveyed the first available pharmacy worker to learn more about pharmacy workers' screening practices when selling OCs over-the-counter to women.

RESULTS: While nearly all of the pharmacy workers surveyed had sold OCs without a prescription, only 31% reported asking women any questions before selling pills. Among those who asked questions, the most commonly asked questions were about other medications a woman was taking, about blood pressure and about alcohol intake. Pharmacy workers did not ask these questions consistently to all clients.

CONCLUSION: Training pharmacy workers might be one strategy to improve screening of women for pill contraindications. However, pharmacy workers may lack the time and motivation to carry out such screening. An alternative strategy might be to better inform women to self-screen for pill contraindications.