In 2015, the governor of Oregon signed a bill (HB 2879) that would allow anyone 18 years of age and older to receive birth control from a pharmacist without a doctor’s prescription.
Now, as of January 1, 2016, Oregon pharmacists can officially prescribe and dispense birth control.
Oregon is the first state to pass such a bill—one that may pave the way for easier access to contraceptives.
The only other state that has passed a law to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control is California (SB 493), though it won’t go into effect until March 2016.
More good news though: a recent federal law was proposed that would allow pharmacists to obtain “provider status.” Provider status would mean that your pharmacist would have the option to focus more on you, the patient. They would have more flexibility and resources beyond just dispensing prescriptions, and would be eligible for Medicare reimbursement just like your doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner.
Many other states, including Ohio, have also introduced bills that would expand pharmacists’ patient care services—for example, Ohio’s HB 188.
Is there anything else unusual about the pharmacist’s role in California?
Yes. Pharmacists in California are also able to prescribe nicotine replacement products and travel medications.
Pharmacists in California can also vaccinate children 3 years and older—younger than the typical minimum of 15 to 18 years. Other states are only just now beginning to allow pharmacists to vaccinate children 7 to 9 years old.
With the passing of SB 493, California pharmacists will also be able to be certified Advanced Practice Pharmacists (APP) as long as certain criteria have been completed, including additional training and education.
Are there advantages to pharmacists taking on an expanded role?
Pharmacists are by far the most accessible healthcare provider so it’s great for you if they are able to spend more time addressing your health concerns without the restrictions that many companies place on their pharmacists.
How will my pharmacist decide whether I qualify to receive birth control?
Your pharmacist will give you a health questionnaire and take your blood pressure. Your pharmacist will review your answers to the questionnaire and determine whether a contraceptive is safe and recommended for you.
Will pharmacists need additional training in order to prescribe birth control?
Yes. Pharmacists will have to complete an additional training course to prepare them for prescribing birth control. Not all pharmacists have to participate, but if they choose not to, they must be able to direct you to a pharmacy with a pharmacist who can.
Can my pharmacist prescribe me birth control that must be given by a health care practitioner?
No. Pharmacists may only prescribe topical (like the patch) or oral (the pill) birth control. You will still need to visit your doctor for an IUD or injections.