April 22, 2011
University of Nottingham researchers reported in a new study that teenagers' STD diagnoses and conception rates rose in areas of England where druggists offered emergency morning-after contraception.
Since 2000, local authorities in England have been encouraged to provide emergency contraception in pharmacies, free of charge and without a prescription, to teens age 16 and younger. Many municipalities have introduced programs, while others declined to do so, explained professors David Paton and Sourafel Girma.
Local data from 1998 to 2004 indicated that areas operating pharmacy-based emergency birth control programs showed an average 5 percent increase in the STD rate among teenagers. For youths 16 and under, the increase was 12 percent. The programs also were associated with a small increase in the number of teen pregnancies, the study found.
In a statement, Paton said the results show "how government interventions can sometimes lead to unfortunate unintended consequences. The fact that [STD] diagnoses increased in areas with emergency birth control schemes will raise questions over whether these schemes represent the best use of public money."
The study, "The Impact of Emergency Birth Control on Teen Pregnancy and STIs," was published in the Journal of Health Economics (2011;30(2):373-380).