Pharmacists in California Can Prescribe Birth Control


By mid-April, pharmacists in California should have full authority to distribute hormonal contraception such as the pill, patch, ring, and shot.

Updated April 11, 2016

Pharmacists in California now have full authority to distribute hormonal contraception such as the pill, patch, ring, and shot.

California Pharmacists Association CEO Jon R. Roth, CAE, told Pharmacy Times that the regulations behind this practice are nearly finished.

“It’s taken a little bit longer than we wanted it to quite honestly, but we are really literally on the cusp,” he said.

The main struggle has been the regulatory process, since the legislation was passed fairly quickly, Roth said.

“But what’s happened is that the regulatory process through our board of pharmacy and through the other state administrative agencies that review regulations has been painstakingly slow,” he explained. “We’ve been working through our advocacy efforts to make those come to fruition as quickly as possible. It’s just taking longer than we would have liked.”

Under California’s Senate Bill (SB) 493, pharmacists can furnish hormonal contraception as long as they follow a statewide protocol.

One part of that protocol is a self-assessment form that the patient completes in order to obtain birth control from a pharmacist. Once the form is filled out, the pharmacist must review it and discuss the best product option for the patient, assess the patient’s needs for birth control, and determine the status of the patient’s health, Roth explained.

SB 493, which was signed into law in 2013, states that this self-screening tool will help identify risk factors related to self-administered hormonal contraceptives based on current US Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use, which was developed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The legislation also dictates that pharmacists must notify women’s primary care providers of any drugs or devices furnished, or enter the information into a patient record system shared with a primary care provider.

If the patient doesn’t have a primary care provider, the pharmacist must give the patient a written record of the product given and advise the patient to consult a physician.

SB 493 also allows pharmacists to provide nicotine replacement patches for use by prescription only in accordance with procedures developed by the pharmacy board and the Medical Board of California. In addition, it allows pharmacists to furnish prescription medications that don’t require a diagnosis but are recommended for international travelers.

California isn’t the only state with laws in place to allow pharmacists to furnish contraception. Oregon’s law became effective on January 1, 2016, and allows pharmacists in the state to prescribe transdermal and oral contraceptives to women aged 18 years or older, or those under the age of 18 years who have already received a prescription from a physician.

Roth told Pharmacy Times that Oregon’s legislation is consistent and similar to California’s. Both laws include a health questionnaire, though California’s legislation does not have an age limit like Oregon’s.

Beyond California and Oregon, collaborative practice laws in Washington State and Washington, DC, allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control if their physician agreements dictate it. Also on the horizon is a federal bill that was introduced in the US Senate to allow pharmacists to dispense birth control pills without a prescription.

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