Three years after it was passed, a law in California that allows pharmacists to provide prescription contraceptives to girls and women has become fully effective on Friday.
Along with Oregon and Washington, California now permits pharmacists to supply prescription birth control methods to women regardless of age under the Senate Bill 493, which had been held up in regulatory discussions by the State Board of Pharmacy.
What You Should Know
Anyone who needs to get self-administered birth control such as injections, the pill, the ring, and the patch can walk into pharmacies and fill out a questionnaire.
Jon Roth, CEO of California Pharmacists Association, said an appointment is not needed in order to get contraceptives from pharmacists.
The state's 6,500 community pharmacies are open beyond normal business hours, he said.
"That means these regulations will go a long way to expanding women's access to birth control," said Roth.
Meanwhile, methods that require to be inserted, including intrauterine devices (IUDs), cannot be administered by pharmacists.
If you decide to get contraceptives, you will have your blood pressure taken and then will have to answer the form in order to make sure that birth control is safe you.
Pharmacists can recommend you types of birth control methods, or you can specifically ask for which type you want. It is not considered as over-the-counter.
Once you have selected, the pharmacist will inform you how the medicine works, how you should take it, and the possible side-effects.
Doubts And Potential Problems
Experts and customers alike have raised questions about the implications of the implemented law. The focus is on how pharmacists could deal with problems that occur when girls and women begin to use contraceptives.
System analyst Lori Herman told the Los Angeles Times that both her daughters had experienced nausea and headaches upon taking the pill for the first time. Herman took her daughters to the doctor to get the problem diagnosed and find other methods to try.
California obstetrician Dr. Deepjot Singh said nearly 50 percent of her patients who start using birth control must change to another type within their first year.
Some come in and complain about weight gain, unexpected bleeding or acne, and Singh said she has to take into account the effects of the drug.
With that, Singh said pharmacists cannot replace doctors when it comes to medical visits.
While this is true, University of Southern California professor Kathleen Besinque said pharmacists will refer women to doctors should there be questions they cannot answer, or believe the patient needs counseling.
"The point isn't that women have to go to a pharmacy," she said. "It's just one more option."
Meanwhile, representatives from the Washington Medical Association say the law that allows pharmacists to dispense birth control to women has been implemented in the state for more than 30 years.
Although the law is effective Friday, most pharmacies in California will not dispense birth control in the next few days. Pharmacy chains are likely to test out the service at a few initial locations.
Additionally, insurance companies must cover the cost of birth control methods bought at pharmacies, and it is possible that pharmacists could charge for handing birth control.