Responding to Patient Questions About Taking the Wrong Pill in the Pack

We want you to be prepared to answer your patient questions.  One common mishap that may lead patients to call or consult with you is what to do if the wrong day’s pill is taken on accident?

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Before you can answer this question, you need to know what birth control pill formulation the patient is taking.  If it’s a progestin-only pill, the answer is much simpler since all the pills in the pill pack are the exact same (norethindrone 0.35 mg) and there are no inactive pills.  In the case of a progestin-only pill, the patient should continue taking one pill daily at the regular scheduled time.  Since there were no missed doses, there are no additional instructions.

For combination birth control pills, where there is a combination of both estrogen and progestin hormones, there are many different formulations. Some pills have different doses of hormones every week or sometimes the dose changes after just a couple days.  Let’s start with a monophasic formulation.  For example, Yaz has 24 “active” pills, all with the same doses of both hormones, and 4 hormone-free or “placebo” pills at the end of the pack.  Any two active pills are the exact same (ethinyl estradiol 20 mcg and drospirenone 3 mg).  So in this case, the fact that the wrong day was punched out and taken would not make any difference.  It’s just important to reassure the patient and have her continue taking one active pill a day until she is back on track.  For a biphasic, triphasic or quadriphasic formulation, any two active pills can be treated as equivalent and the same instructions followed.  However, any pills with estrogen only (for example, two pills before the inactive pills in Mircette or LoLoestrinFe), should be treated as inactive pills.  If the patient took an inactive pill, it should be treated as a missed dose.  Refer to the CDC Guidelines for Missed Doses of Combined Oral Contraceptives, Patch or Vaginal Ring.

You are an excellent resource for patients dealing with a contraceptive mishap.

Please share any common questions with us and we’re happy to provide guidance in a future blog post!  We look forward to answering many more questions!

MPR Ask the Experts Interview

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A few months ago, I was interviewed by the team at Monthly Prescribing Reference (MPR) regarding pharmacist prescribing of oral contraceptives. The newsletter has just been published and I want to share with you all as it is a great reference if you are interested in prescribing oral contraceptives.

In the 16-page newsletter dedicated to this topic, you will see both my responses as well as responses from Dr. Lorinda Anderson of Oregon to the following questions:

In your opinion, what are the implications of legislation allowing qualified pharmacists in California and Oregon to prescribe and dispense certain types of contraceptives? What is your take on how women perceive these new laws?

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans are permitted to use cost sharing to encourage or discourage use of specific contraceptive products. In your opinion, how much does cost sharing influence the decision of which OC to prescribe? Are there any concerns that cost sharing could prevent a patient from receiving the OC that is optimal for her?

When choosing from among the many combination OCs available, how do the doses of estrogen factor into your decision (if at all) regarding which OC to prescribe?

For which patients and under what circumstances might one opt to prescribe a progestin-only OC or a combination OC?

What questions/concerns should pharmacists expect to address when counseling a patient who is being prescribed an OC?

In your experience, what are some common side effects that may occur with OC use? In the event that a patient finds specific side effects persistent and/or bothersome, what do you recommend in terms of next steps?

In what type of situation should a pharmacist refer patients to a women’s healthcare professional or other healthcare provider for contraception?

What would you like to communicate to your colleagues regarding the appropriate training and knowledge that should be acquired in order to begin prescribing contraceptives? Can you recommend any relevant resources that your colleagues could consult if needed?

Do you have any concluding remarks that you would like to share with our readers?

Please see the full newsletter here.

Thank you to MPR and Teva Generics for supporting this important content for pharmacists.