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Calif. Rule Change Could Increase Birth Control Access

May 21, 2015 — A 2013 California law (SB 493) is scheduled to take effect in the next few weeks that will allow pharmacists in the state to distribute contraception without requiring a prescription from a physician, Governing reports.

Under the law, women will be able to request contraception from a pharmacist, who could then write the prescription after following certain screening protocols. Specifically, a woman would be required to complete a brief health questionnaire, undergo a blood pressure test and consult with the pharmacist on dosage and other information before receiving the contraception.

According to Governing, the California Board of Pharmacy established the protocols earlier this year. They soon will be filed officially with state regulators.

The service can be provided by any pharmacist. Further, the law does not allow insurers to refuse to cover FDA-approved contraceptives because they are prescribed by a pharmacist rather than a physician. Under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), insurers have to cover all forms of FDA-approved contraceptives.

Implications

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical groups have expressed support for making contraception available over the counter. In addition, a study published last year in Contraception found that the practice could lower unintended pregnancies by 25%.

According to Governing, the policy also could help uninsured women access contraception because the pharmacist consultation will likely be less costly and take less time than a physician visit.

California Pharmacists Association CEO Jon Roth said consumer awareness will be a key factor in the measure's success. He noted that while major retail chains will be able to advertise the service, consumers likely will take some time to notice how pharmacists' role has changed (Kardish, Governing, 5/19).