Calif. Law Expanding Pharmacists’ Scope of Practice To Take Effect
A 2013 California law (SB 493) is scheduled to take effect in the next few weeks will allow pharmacists in the state to distribute contraception without requiring a prescription from a physician, among other things, Governing reports (Kardish, Governing, 5/19).
Details of the Law
Under the law, pharmacists' scope of practice will be expanded to allow them to initiate certain kinds of prescriptions and to provide clinical advice and patient consultation (Gorn, California Healthline, 10/3/13).
Among the changes, women will be able to request contraception from a pharmacist, who could then write the prescription after following certain screening protocols. Specifically, a woman would be required to:
- Complete a brief health questionnaire;
- Consult with the pharmacist on dosage and other information before receiving the contraception; and
- Undergo a blood pressure test.
According to Governing, the California Board of Pharmacy established the protocols earlier this year. They soon will be filed officially with state regulators.
The service can be provided by any pharmacist. Further, the law does not allow insurers to refuse to cover FDA-approved contraceptives because they are prescribed by a pharmacist rather than a physician. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers have to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical groups have expressed support for making contraception available over the counter. In addition, a study published last year in Contraception found that the practice could lower unintended pregnancies by one-quarter.
According to Governing, the policy also could help uninsured women access contraception because the pharmacist consultation likely will be less costly and take less time than a physician visit.
California Pharmacists Association CEO Jon Roth said consumer awareness will be a key factor in the measure's success. He noted that major chains will have resources to promote the service but that it will take time for the public to note the change in the pharmacist's role.
Similarly, Amy Moy, vice president of public affairs at the California Family Health Council, said, "My initial assumption would be that women would continue to go to their provider, whom they trust and they're currently accessing contraception from, and it would be up to the local pharmacy group to decide how much effort or marketing allocation they'd want to put into this new service" (Governing, 5/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.