You may have heard about a new law that allows pharmacists to prescribe hormonal birth control (like the pill, patch, and ring) to women that will come into effect before the end of this year. As exciting as this new law is, it’s important to know all the details so that you don’t encounter any obstacles if you do decide to go to your pharmacist for birth control.
To get the low-down on this new law, I talked with Courtney Miller, a pharmacy student at UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Here are some of the main things you need to know:
- This new law will increase women’s access to birth control. Once birth control becomes available in pharmacies, you won’t have to go through the trouble of finding time in your schedule for a doctor’s appointment to get your prescription. Instead, you’ll be able to stop by the pharmacy after work or school at times when the doctor’s office is usually closed. This means it’ll be more convenient for you and you’ll have more flexibility in picking up your birth control. (You should know that you MAY be excused from school to access sexual and reproductive health services WITHOUT needing your parents' or guardians' permission and without them being notified.)
- BUT… Pharmacists are NOT replacing doctors. Yes, it’s great that pharmacies will become a new point of access for women to get birth control, but getting birth control from your pharmacist does not mean you shouldn’t go to regular check-ups with your primary care doctor to get screened for cervical cancer or tested for STDs. As Courtney puts it, “pharmacists are an untapped resource, but by no means will they be funneling patients away from primary care doctors.” It’s still incredibly important to go to your regular doctor because they provide the comprehensive care that is critical to your overall health, says Amy Moy, Vice President of Public Affairs for Essential Access Health.
- A pharmacy visit to get birth control will be slightly different than a regular visit to pick up a prescription. Usually when you go to the pharmacy, you simply pick up your prescription and leave. With this new law, there is a protocol that pharmacists will have to follow before prescribing birth control. This will allow you to sit down with them and have a conversation discussing your options. The goal of this conversation is to find a method of birth control that works best for the patient. According to Courtney, “pharmacists will ask something along the lines of, “What are you looking to get our of your birth control?’” In addition to personalizing this process, pharmacists will give patients other health information regarding birth control, such as a reminder that birth control does not protect against STDs.
- Just like when you visit your doctor, your visit with the pharmacist is confidential. Your information regarding your health is personal and private, and this new law understands that. Under law, a pharmacist has to obtain written permission from teens to share that information with their parents. If you are under your parents insurance, all you have to do is fill out a confidential communication request form to keep this health info private.
- Since California is the first state in the country with this law, there are still some kinks to work out, including cost. Though the service fee may vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, “the most important thing is that the cost of the medication will be the same,” says Courtney. To stay updated on the progress of this law and any new information that comes out, check this website out.
This new law is first set to go into effect at the Walgreens pharmacy on the University of California, San Francisco campus later this year. This is exciting because other states will be watching California to see how this law plays out! In fact, Oregon JUST adopted a similar law. Hopefully women will take advantage of pharmacies as an additional access point for birth control and find the option that works best for them, but still keep in mind that getting regular health care from your doctor is irreplaceable.