Access to prescription contraception has evolved in the United States, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act (ACA),12 which requires most health plans to cover some types of birth control at no cost to patients.13 The ACA mandate has especially benefited patients who use oral contraceptives. In fact, according to a 2015 study by Becker and Polsky, the average user of birth control pills saved approximately $255 per year, subsequent to implementation of the mandate. The study also states that the mandate has reduced women’s annual overall out-of-pocket spending on oral contraceptives by $1.4 billion.14
In California and Oregon, access to birth control has evolved even further as the result of legislation allowing qualified retail pharmacists in those states to prescribe and dispense certain methods of contraception.15,16 The number of additional states considering this type of legislation is growing rapidly.
A New Prescribing Role for Pharmacists
In both California and Oregon, a female patient who visits a specially trained pharmacist to obtain prescription birth control will be required to complete a self-screening questionnaire. The retail pharmacist will then review the patient’s answers and determine whether it is safe to prescribe and dispense a contraceptive product to her.15,16
Any patient who is prescribed contraception by a pharmacist should be encouraged to consult a primary care provider or women’s healthcare professional for a clinical examination.15,16 She should also be reminded that hormonal contraception will not protect her from sexually transmitted infections.
For more information, please consult the following resources:
MPR Ask the Expert shares the insights of 2 prescribing pharmacists on the topic of oral contraception. It also explains how pharmacists in California and Oregon can become qualified to prescribe birth control products.
MPR Concise Consult provides an overview of oral contraceptives and summarizes state-specific legislation allowing pharmacists to prescribe contraceptive products. It also includes a tear sheet for patients. Written in both English and Spanish, the tear sheet answers frequently asked questions about birth control pills.