Pharmacists Will Soon Prescribe Birth Control in Oregon

A new state law will allow women in Oregon to receive birth control from their pharmacist.

A new state law will allow women in Oregon to receive birth control from their pharmacist.

Signed by Governor Kate Brown and effective January 1, 2016, House Bill (HB) 2879 authorizes Oregon pharmacists to prescribe and dispense transdermal and oral contraceptives to women aged 18 years and older.

The law also permits the state’s pharmacists to prescribe and dispense birth control to patients aged younger than 18 years who have received a previous prescription for contraceptive patches or oral contraceptives from a physician.

All women seeking a prescription for birth control from their pharmacist in Oregon must complete a questionnaire designed to screen for potential risks, allowing the prescribing pharmacist to select an appropriate product. Pharmacists are then required to notify their patients’ primary prescriber when a medication is prescribed, and they can only continue to dispense the product for 3 years unless they receive proof that a patient has seen her physician since the medication was initially prescribed.

Although opponents of the bill expressed concern over the blood clot risks associated with oral contraceptives, bill sponsor Representative Knute Buehler stated that this risk is outweighed by the health risks of unplanned pregnancy.

“It makes no sense that men should have unrestricted access to contraceptives, while women must first get a prescription from their physician,” Rep. Buehler, a physician, said in a press release following the bill’s passage in the state House of Representatives. “…If a woman wants to purchase birth control at her local pharmacy, she should be able to do that without having to schedule an appointment with a doctor.”

Gov. Brown also recently signed into law HB 2028, which recognizes pharmacists as health care providers.

In an exclusive interview with Pharmacy Times, Marcus Watt, RPh, the Executive Director of the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, explained that the 2 laws complement each other, as HB 2028 enables pharmacists to be reimbursed for the counselling they provide to women seeking birth control.

“I see this law only as a positive for everyone. Patients are given a more convenient way to access their medication at a lesser expense, while pharmacists are able to better utilize their knowledge and expertise,” Watt said. “If Oregon pharmacists can embrace this opportunity and succeed, they may be able to expand their scope of practice even further.”

Oregon State Pharmacy Association (OSPA) president Gary E. DeLander, PhD, RPh, expressed similar enthusiasm toward the birth control law, noting that it will empower pharmacists to play a more essential role in improving public health.

“Pharmacists have a huge potential to impact care, and timely access to care, in the use of medications that do not require a diagnosis or in the management of chronic therapies after a diagnosis has been made,” Dr. DeLander told Pharmacy Times. “This is an excellent example of how pharmacists can step forward and make a difference in their patient’s lives.”

Prior to the law’s implementation in January, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy will work with the Oregon Medical Board, the Oregon State Board of Nursing, and the Oregon Health Authority to develop rules, protocols, and training programs for pharmacists seeking prescriptive authority.

Once the law is implemented, Oregon will become the first state in which a woman can receive oral or transdermal contraceptives without a prescription from her physician. A 2013 California law, Senate Bill 493, also permits the state’s pharmacists to prescribe birth control, but the measure has yet to take effect.

A federal bill that would allow OTC dispensing of oral contraceptives, known as the Affordability is Access Act, has been introduced in the US Senate.