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    Should birth control be OTC?

    New laws in California and Oregon now allow pharmacists to dispense birth control to pharmacy customers without a doctor’s prescription. But not many pharmacists are taking part—at least not yet.
    Retail chains, pharmacy educators, and some pharmacists say the so-called pharmacist prescribing laws are a great opportunity for pharmacists to expand their services and to use their knowledge. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) takes the position that requiring a pharmacist to dispense birth control—rather than offering it “truly” over-the-counter (OTC)—serves to place an unnecessary barrier between women and safe contraception.
    Jim Graham, Walgreens’ senior manager of media relations, says that the drugstore chain is looking into incorporating the pharmacist prescribing law into its operations. He told Drug Topics magazine, a sister publication to Contemporary OB/GYN, “We appreciate the new law’s recognition of the valuable role that pharmacists can play as healthcare providers. We are currently assessing the [pharmacist prescribing] law’s procedural requirements.”
    Walgreens plans to test the service in a small number of pharmacies, “which will also give us an indication of the demand for this service,” Graham said.

    The Oregon law

    Oregon House Bill 2879 became effective in January 2016. To develop a training program to assist pharmacists in dispensing birth control, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy convened a workgroup with representatives from the Oregon Medical Board, the Oregon State Board of Nursing, the Oregon Health Authority, and subject matter experts. It approved a 5-hour continuing education (CE) training program for pharmacists through the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and Oregon State University, which can be completed online at a cost of $250.

    California and Washington

    Oregon State University offers a course to California and Washington state pharmacists as well. Lorinda Anderson, PharmD, BCPS, a professor at Oregon State University College of Pharmacy, says that about 1700 pharmacists practice in retail sites in Oregon. California and Washington do not require pharmacists to obtain CE before dispensing, whereas Oregon does. In Oregon, 936 pharmacists are contracted to take the course through their pharmacies, and Anderson says this number will soon rise to about 1600. In California, despite it not being required, about 1291 pharmacists are contracted to take the course, and in Washington, 922. Washington state does not have a specific law concerning the dispensing of contraception, says Anderson, but it could be covered under an older, separate law for collaborative practice agreements.


    Susan C. Olmstead
    Ms. Olmstead is the Editorial Director of Contemporary OB/GYN.


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