Misoprostol was used by women across Mexico to induce abortion even before 2007, when first-trimester abortion was legalized in Mexico City. Pharmacy vendors’ misoprostol recommendation practices across subregions of Mexico after abortion legalization warrant examination.
Overall, 192 pharmacies in four regions of Mexico were randomly selected and visited by simulated clients presenting three scenarios (a young woman, an adult woman and a male partner). Bivariate and multivariate analyses were used to explore associations between pharmacy, vendor and client characteristics and drug access.
In 558 encounters with simulated clients, 78% of vendors provided information about misoprostol—18% recommended it spontaneously and 60% recommended it only after the client asked specifically for the drug. Fifteen percent of vendors recommended a potentially effective misoprostol dosing regimen. Mexico City-based pharmacies and those in the Central region were significantly less likely than those in the North region to require a prescription to sell misoprostol (odds ratios, 0.2 and 0.3, respectively). Independent pharmacies and those from low-income areas were significantly more likely to sell misoprostol by the pill than chain pharmacies and those in medium-income areas (3.2 and 2.7, respectively).
Access to misoprostol is influenced by neighborhood socioeconomic level, pharmacy location and pharmacy type. The frequently inaccurate and incomplete information provided to clients about using misoprostol for abortion suggests the need to improve pharmacy vendor training in medication abortion options and to develop ways to directly inform women about misoprostol use.