Although a new law in California allows pharmacists to prescribe birth control, only 11% of the over 5,000 community-based retail pharmacies in the state offer the service, according to a study published in JAMA

The law, enacted in 2013 and implemented in 2016, allows pharmacists to prescribe birth control to increase access to oral contraceptives, patches, rings, and injections for women. Currently, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oregon are the only states that allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control after completing necessary training. 

For this study, researchers from UC Berkeley conducted telephone surveys to over 1,000 California licensed pharmacies between February–April 2017 to ask if the staff offered birth control without a prescription from a physician. If they did, follow-up questions regarding type of contraception and service fee charges were asked. 

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The data showed only 1 in 11 pharmacies contacted had pharmacists who could prescribe birth control. The most common form was birth control pills (77%), followed by vaginal rings (40%), patches (38%), and injectable contraceptives (9%). Among the pharmacies that offered the service, 68% charged a fee ranging from $40 to $45. 

While contraception may be covered by insurance, the fees charged by pharmacies for providing the service are often not, as insurers are not required to reimburse for these seervices. “Even when contraception is available in pharmacies, it may not be economically accessible because of fees,” the authors point out.

They conclude by stating that as more states begin to consider allowing contraceptive services by pharmacists, continued research is needed to identify barriers to accessibility.

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