Thoughts About Pharmacist Birth Control Prescribing

Should we look at birth control prescribing as just another task for pharmacists, or should we view it as part of a wider effort to promote their primary care role?

Pharmacists in a few states have recently been granted the opportunity to prescribe various birth control methods. This seems consistent with recommendations from public health experts to expand access to basic health care, including contraception.

Should we look at birth control prescribing as just another task for pharmacists, or should we view it as part of a wider effort to promote their primary care role? I like the later perspective, but I understand that taking this position can put pharmacists in a turf war with other health care professionals who believe we’re moving too fast into their territory.

But the truth is there isn’t an adequate supply of clinicians to meet the current demand for primary care. I think we’re already training pharmacists to take on a primary care role, but if you don't agree, consider that it wouldn’t require much more education to make them competent to do so.

Another concern is that assuming a primary care position might end up morphing the pharmacist into something else.

Back in the 1970s, when I was a pharmacy educator I worked with a physician assistant (PA) program to allow pharmacy students to complete PA courses, spend a year under supervised practice, and then become licensed as both a pharmacist and a PA. When they graduated, however, they couldn't find jobs that used both skillsets. Most just became pharmacists, and a few just became PAs.

Have things changed enough 40 years later that pharmacists with primary care skills can find opportunites to use the full skillsets they possess? I think so, and that’s why we should view birth control prescribing not as an end in itself, but as a means to expand the role of the pharmacist as a primary care provider.

What do you think?