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Pharmacists Given the Okay to Prescribe Birth Control

The Short of It

Who do you see more often: your doctor or your pharmacist? Many women would say the latter, which is the impetus behind a new law in California that allows pharmacists to prescribe birth control.

The Lowdown

As soon as this fall, women in California may be able to take advantage of a new law that expands the authority of local pharmacists, in effect allowing them to skip the trip to their doctor's office and get birth control right from the source.

For many women who work or care for children full-time and struggle to find the time to see a doctor, the convenience of this "untapped resource" is extremely appealing. It also addresses concerns that primary care physicians have less time to see patients as the Baby Boomer generation ages.

But some doctors are concerned that if they are cut out of the birth control equation, women will neglect their other health needs, such as being screened for STDs and cancer. The California Medical Association's initial opposition to the bill prompted lawmakers to require that pharmacists also go through a special licensing procedure and agree to continuing education requirements.

Communication between pharmacists and doctors would also be essential for this new law to work.

The Upshot

The ultimate goal of the California law is to give more women access to birth control.

Time recently reported on research that found when women are counseled on the different forms of birth control available to them, they chose the most effective form more often, and as a consequence, have less unplanned pregnancies. Long acting reversible contraception (LARC), such as IUDs and implants, has proven to prevent pregnancy 98 percent of the time, which is far more effective than the pill or condoms.

If women can't even get in to see doctors, counseling is out of the question. Pharmacists are simply another resource for women who need assistance with family planning.

Would you go straight to a pharmacist for birth control or would you prefer to see your doctor first?

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