Medical abortion drug dispensing practices among private pharmacy workers in Nepal: A mystery client study

Posted on 23.11.2022 - 19:00


Pharmacies are the first point of contact for women seeking medical abortion (MA) and act as important sources of information and referral in Nepal. Over the counter sale of MA drugs is not currently allowed in Nepal. This study aimed to assess the MA drug dispensing practices of pharmacy workers using mystery clients in Nepal.


A cross-sectional study using the mystery client approach was conducted in 266 pharmacies in September-October 2019. These pharmacies had either received harm reduction training or medical detailing visits. A total of 532 visits were conducted by six male and six female mystery clients. Mystery clients without prescription approached the sample pharmacy and filled out a standard digital survey questionnaire using the SurveyCTO application immediately after each interaction.


Pharmacy workers dispensed MA drugs in 35.7% of the visits while they refused to provide MA drugs to the mystery clients in 39.3% of visits. Lack of evidence of prior consultation with a physician (27.5%), referral to other health facilities (21.8%), unavailability of MA drugs in the pharmacy (21.3%) and lack of prescription (16.4%) were the main reasons for refusal. Seventy percent of the pharmacy workers inquired clients about last menstrual period/months of pregnancy while 38.1% asked whether the pregnancy status was confirmed. During 65.1% of the visits, mystery clients were told about when to take the MA drugs while in 66.4% of visits, they were told about the route of drug administration. Similarly, mystery clients were briefed about what to expect during the abortion process in half of the visits, and information about the possible side effects of the MA drug was provided in 55.9% of the visits. Pharmacy workers provided correct information on taking MA drugs to mystery clients in 70.7% of visits.


Despite legal provision of sale of MA drugs only on prescription, pharmacy workers dispensed MA drug in one out of three visits. As pharmacies are the initial contacts of women for abortion services in Nepal, correct supplementary information through pharmacy workers can be an effective strategy to expand access to quality safe abortion services.


Sigdel, Anil; Angdembe, Mirak Raj; Khanal, Pratik; Adhikari, Nilaramba; Maharjan, Alina; Paudel, Mahesh (2022): Medical abortion drug dispensing practices among private pharmacy workers in Nepal: A mystery client study. PLOS ONE. Collection.
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