Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hormonal Contraceptives Without a Physician's Prescription

Oregon is the first state to make hormonal contraceptives available without a prescription from a medical doctor (see an article in The New York Times.) Under a new law that took effect January 1, prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives may be written by pharmacists who have completed a state training course. The patient will only need to complete a questionnaire at a participating pharmacy, have it reviewed by the pharmacist, and pay a one-time fee of about $25. It is hoped that increased availability of contraceptives will reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies.

Oregon teenagers under 18 will still have to receive their first prescription from a doctor; after that, they can renew it at a pharmacy. After five years the legislature will review the law and decide whether the age restriction should be lifted.

Hormonal contraceptives have been around for a long time. They are considered so safe that The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists would like to see them available over-the-counter. However, over-the-counter availability would require approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; not an easy task. To make contraceptives more readily available in their state right away, states are taking the approach of simply licensing their pharmacists to write prescriptions. A similar law will take effect this year in California, with no age restriction. Other states are watching Oregon and California closely as they consider whether to follow suit.

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