Women in California can now get contraception — including birth control pills — directly from their pharmacist and without a prescription from a doctor.
Thanks to State Senate Bill 493, which went into effect on Oct. 1, 2015, pharmacists can fill the role of health care provider when it comes to dispensing hormonal contraceptives.
Prior to the approval of the bill, women could only purchase emergency contraception — the Plan B or “morning after” pill — without a doctor’s prescription. Under SB 493, the pill, patch, ring or injectable version of hormonal birth control are now available after receiving an eligibility assessment and counseling from a licensed pharmacist.
Why pharmacists are qualified to be health care providers
Expanding health care teams to include pharmacists — who are highly educated and rigorously trained — will improve the quality, accessibility and cost-efficiency of care.
“Ultimately, this is good for women,” says Dr. Philip Diamond, an OBGYN with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “I have no doubt our Sharp pharmacists will do an excellent job counseling patients and providing contraception.”
A pharmacist’s education includes a post-doctoral program and clinical rotations in a variety of care environments. Many even continue on to complete a post-doctoral residency and certification in additional specialties. Pharmacists are easily accessible in a variety of settings, including local pharmacies, hospitals, doctors’ offices and clinics, and do not require an appointment for care.
Pharmacists are also experts in medications and regularly work with doctors to provide patients with coordinated care. The new law will permit pharmacists to be declared as health care providers, streamlining the process for obtaining contraception and making it easier for doctors to provide quality care by adding pharmacists to a patient’s health care management team.
Although there are concerns that women may forego other screenings — such as those for cervical cancer or sexually transmitted diseases — if they receive their birth control from a pharmacist, the consensus is that improving access is incredibly important to women’s health. The goal is to ensure that pharmacists and doctors stay in regular contact to provide excellent coordinated care.
Women should check with their insurer to see if pharmacist care is covered, and always discuss the services and medications they receive from their pharmacist with their doctor.