Two western states will allow pharmacists to provide contraceptives without a prescription from a physician.
New laws set to go into effect over the next few months will allow pharmacists to supply contraceptives, such as pills, patches and rings, to women without them having to get a prescription from a physician, says a report in seattletimes.com.
California and Oregon have passed legislation designed to make birth control more readily available to women, and to make getting them more convenient. Under the law, pharmacists will be able to provide contraceptives after reviewing a questionnaire about the woman’s general health and medical history.
Unlike most legislation involving birth control, this one seems to not have generated very much political backlash, possibly because the states are looking at ways to stem the trend of rising unintended pregnancies.
According to the report, about half of the 6.6 million pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended, a higher proportion that that of Europe.
Most reproductive health agencies and medical associations are calling for making access to contraception hassle-free and available over the counter, without a prescription from the doctor. Some groups expressed concern the new laws could slow down that process.
Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, the president of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said his group is opposed to the law, adding that hormonal contraceptives should be available over the counter and women should not have anyone between them and the pill.
Supporters of the over-the-counter movement acknowledge approval for sales could be pushed well down the road, mainly because the Food and Drug Administration will likely require additional reviews and safety studies to be completed before allowing birth control to be prescription free.
Another concern is the cost, since the Affordable Care Act did not specifically say over-the-counter medications had to be covered by insurance plans, and those with plans may be paying more for the availability of the contraceptives. In addition, pharmacists are likely to bill the customers or their insurance companies for their time in reviewing the questionnaires.
Opponents of the movement are saying they are afraid that many women will forego their doctor visits, and that could potentially lead to other medical conditions not being diagnosed.
The two states laws are similar, but have some differences, such as Oregon’s stipulation that the first contraceptive prescription for anyone under the age of 18 must be obtained from a doctor, while California’s has no age restriction.