Years of advocating for increased access to emergency contraception (EC) paid off last month for the Boston University (BU) Students for Reproductive Freedom (SRF) group with the installation of the first ever EC vending machine on the Boston University campus. This machine dispenses levonorgestrel EC, more commonly known as Plan B, for only $7.25, which is significantly cheaper than its usual over-the-counter price of between $40 and $50 at local pharmacies (with a prescription it may be free). This increased availability of contraception at Boston University comes at a time when many states are attempting to limit people’s reproductive freedom. PICCK is thrilled to see this improvement in contraceptive access at Boston University, affiliated with Boston Medical Center.
EC access is essential for all people, including college students. EC allows people to prevent pregnancy in the case of unprotected intercourse or after a birth control method failure. Most methods of contraception can fail for various reasons, including but not limited to issues in accessing the method through unexpected appointment delays, problems with insurance coverage, or inconsistent use. Whatever the case may be, the ability to quickly and easily acquire EC is a critical component of equitable contraceptive access. The new EC vending machine in Boston University’s George Sherman Union improves contraceptive access on campus by removing financial and logistical barriers that may have otherwise stood in students’ way of acquiring EC.
Levonorgestrel, the kind of EC sold in this new vending machine, is one of four available options for people wanting to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse. PICCK provides an overview of this method, as well as ulipristal acetate (sold under the brand name Ella) and IUDs (hormonal and copper) as EC in our EC Information Sheet. Unlike levonorgestrel, the other two methods of EC on the market are not available in a vending machine; hormonal and Copper IUDs require insertion by a clinician, and ulipristal acetate is only available by prescription. Nonetheless, the installation of a machine that quickly delivers levonorgestrel EC pills is a significant contraceptive access advancement at Boston University. Moreover, despite not being available for sale in the on-campus vending machine, Boston University students can access ulipristal acetate with a prescription nearby at local pharmacies, including ones open 24-hours/day in Dorchester and Cambridge. There are also ways to acquire a prescription for ulipristal acetate without an in-person visit, such as through a telemedicine appointment or online from a telemedicine provider. For a full list of the 24-hour pharmacies in Massachusetts that typically stock Ella, check out this resource.
PICCK is excited to see this improvement in contraceptive access here at Boston University, and we hope that more universities, clinics, and hospitals will follow their lead to make EC more accessible throughout the Commonwealth. To learn more about how to provide EC as soon as possible in your practice, including tools to assist patients in selecting which form of EC is right for them, visit our Emergency Contraception practice resources page.