Pharmacy World & Science

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 496–502 | Cite as

Pattern of use of emergency oral contraception among Portuguese women

  • E. FontesEmail author
  • J. Guerreiro
  • T. Costa
  • A. Miranda
Research Article


Objective This study describes the purchasers’ profile and characterizes the pattern of use of emergency oral contraception among pharmacy users. Setting The study was carried out in 455 Portuguese pharmacies. Method A cross-sectional study was undertaken in which pharmacists selected the first six purchasers of emergency oral contraception between May and June of 2006. Only user-purchasers were eligible to answer the questions about emergency oral contraception use. Participants completed a questionnaire on sociodemographic data and variables concerning contraceptive methods (including the emergency oral contraceptive acquired, the source of information about the availability of this emergency contraceptive method, prior use of emergency oral contraception, the frequency of use in the current cycle, the frequency of use in the preceding year, the time elapsed between unprotected sexual intercourse and the acquisition of emergency oral contraception, the reason for use and the regular method of contraception used). Although these drugs are available outside pharmacies—in some shops and supermarkets—their pattern of use was only assessed among pharmacy users. Descriptive statistics were used to characterize data. Main outcome measure Prevalence of correct use, which was defined as the proportion of user-purchasers who acquired emergency oral contraception up to 72 h after unprotected sexual intercourse and had never used it in the current cycle. Results The sample comprised 1466 user-purchasers (72.6%) and 552 purchasers for another person’s use (27.4%). Levonorgestrel-only contraceptives represented 96.1% of the emergency oral contraception acquired. User-purchasers aged between 18 and 30 represented 65.2% and 42.3% had attended secondary school. The majority of them (79.5%) were using a regular method of contraception and 62.6% were first-time users of emergency oral contraception. In 59.0% of the situations the reason for use was failure of the contraceptive used. Conclusion Emergency oral contraception was used correctly by 96.9% of user-purchasers.


Drug utilization Emergency contraception Portugal 



The authors are grateful to all community pharmacists who voluntarily collected data for this study. Special thanks to Dr. Patricia Ferreira.


This project was developed and implemented by CEFAR (Center for Health Evaluation & Research), a Contract Research Organization of the Portuguese National Association of Pharmacies (ANF) and co-financed by ANF and Tecnifar.

Conflicts of interest statement

Tecnifar markets Norlevo® (levonorgestrel) for the Portuguese pharmaceutical market. Dr Telma Costa receives support from Tecnifar. Dr José Guerreiro and Dr Ana Miranda receive support from ANF. Dr Ermelindo Fontes received grants from ANF.


  1. 1.
    Croxatto HB, Devoto L, Durand M, Ezcurra E, Larrea F, Nagle C, et al. Mechanism of action of hormonal preparations used for emergency contraception: a review of the literature. Contraception. 2001;63(3):111–21.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    World Health Organization. Randomised controlled trial of levonorgestrel versus the Yuzpe regimen of combined oral contraceptives for emergency contraception. Lancet. 1998;352:428–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Amy JJ, Tripathi V. Contraception for women: an evidence based overview. BMJ. 2009;339:b2895.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Raine TR, Harper CC, Rocca CH, Fischer R, Padian N, Klausner JD, et al. Direct access to emergency contraception through pharmacies and effect on unintended pregnancy and STIs: a randomized, controlled trial. JAMA. 2005;293(1):54–62.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Camp SL, Wilkerson DS, Raine TR. The benefits and risks of over-the-counter availability of levonorgestrel emergency contraception. Contraception. 2003;68:309–17.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    The International Consortium for Emergency Contraception. [online]. Available from Accessed Apr 2010.
  7. 7.
    Harper CC, Cheong M, Rocca CH, Darney PD, Raine TR. The Effect of increased access to emergency contraception among young adolescents. Obstet Gynecol. 2005;106(3):483–91.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Raymond EG, Spruyt A, Bley K, Colm J, Robbins LA. The North Carolina DIAL EC project: increasing access to emergency contraceptive pills by telephone. Contraception. 2004;69(5):367–72.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Bissell P, Anderson C. Supplying emergency contraception via community pharmacies in the UK: reflections on the experiences of users and providers. Soc Sci Med. 2003;57:2367–78.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ruiz Sanz S, Güell Pérez E, Güell Pérez E, Herranz Calvo C, Pedraza Moreno C. Emergency contraception. Characteristics of the demand. Aten Primaria. 2002;30(6):381–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Shawe J, Ineichen B, Lawrenson R. Emergency contraception: who are the users? J Fam Plan Reprod Health Care. 2001;27(4):209–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    World Health Organization Collaboration Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology. The ATC/DDD system. [online]. Available from: Accessed Apr 2010.
  13. 13.
    Cano JC, Almansa A, López F. Emergency contraception: user’s profile in primary care emergency services. Aten Primaria. 2004;34(6):279–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Loughrey F, Matthews A, Bedford D, Howell F. Characteristics of women seeking emergency contraception in general practice. Ir Med J. 2006;99(2):50–2.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Sander PM, Raymond EG, Weaver MA. Emergency contraceptive use as a marker of future risky sex, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infection. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009;201(2):146.e1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Verhoeven V, Peremans L, Avonts D, Van Royen P. The profile of emergency contraception users in a chlamydia prevalence study in primary care in Belgium. Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2006;11(3):175–80.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Black KI, Mercer CH, Johnson AM, Wellings K. Sociodemographic and sexual health profile of users of emergency hormonal contraception: data from a British probability sample survey. Contraception. 2006;74(4):309–12.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hansen CC, Svare EI, Petersen RH, Bock JE. Who are the users of emergency contraception? Ugeskr Laeger. 2002;164(43):5003–5.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Martins AP, Miranda Ada C, Mendes Z, Soares MA, Ferreira P, Nogueira A. Self-medication in a Portuguese urban population: a prevalence study. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2002;11(5):409–14.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Farmácia MirenseMira de AirePortugal
  2. 2.CEFAR - Center for Health Evaluation & ResearchLisbonPortugal
  3. 3.TecnifarLisbonPortugal

Personalised recommendations