Original research article| Volume 95, ISSUE 4, P414-418, April 2017

“I don’t know what I would have done.” Women's experiences acquiring ulipristal acetate emergency contraception online from 2011 to 2015



      This study describes women's reasons for seeking ulipristal acetate (UPA) for emergency contraception (EC) through the only authorized online retailer for UPA EC in the US.

      Study design

      Women aged 14 to 59 years, living in states that allow prescription medications to be shipped from out-of-state, accessed the KwikMed online pharmacy between January 2011 and December 2015. After completing a medical eligibility screener, women answered optional multiple-choice questions. To obtain UPA through KwikMed, individuals must be female, 50 years of age or younger, not currently pregnant or breastfeeding and not attempting to order UPA more than once within 30 days or more than four times per year.


      Over the 5-year period, KwikMed provided 8019 prescriptions for UPA, and the number of women using this service more than tripled over time. Among women who responded to the survey questions (n=7133; response rate = 89%), most sought EC because of a condom failure (45.3%) or because they did not use regular contraception (41.2%). More than half (53.5%) of women reported that they chose UPA because of its effectiveness compared to levonorgestrel EC pills, and 58.9% preferred ordering UPA online because they found it easier than getting it from a doctor, clinic or pharmacy.


      This study documents the importance of providing confidential services for acquiring EC online. Benefits of online access include convenience, less embarrassment, avoiding situations in which a provider might refuse to provide EC because of their own ideological belief and more reliable availability for this time-sensitive contraceptive.


      Though physical, logistical and societal barriers can restrict women's access to EC, this study demonstrates that providing access to UPA online empowers women to obtain EC when they need it.


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