- Twenty states in the U.S. allow pharmacists to prescribe hormonal birth control.
- This can help people gain access to birth control medications without having to see a physician.
- The FDA is debating allowing birth control to be available OTC.
Hormonal birth control has been widely available for decades in the U.S., but it still requires a prescription.
But getting a prescription from a physician can be difficult for some people if they don’t have time to get to a doctor’s office or feel uncomfortable talking to their doctor about birth control options.
The FDA is currently considering a request from one pharmaceutical company to allow birth control to be sold OTC.
While hormonal birth control currently requires a prescription, increasingly some states are allowing pharmacists instead of physicians to provide these prescriptions.
In the past few years, many states, including New Mexico, South Carolina, and Utah, have passed laws permitting pharmacists to prescribe hormonal birth control.
In 2016, California and Oregon became the first states to authorize pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives.
There are now 21 jurisdictions in the United States that allow pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Another 10 states are looking to pass similar legislation.
By allowing pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraceptives, like the pill and the patch,
“Pharmacists are one of the most accessible health care providers and 95% of patients live within  miles of a pharmacy. By allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control, patients now have a potentially more convenient way of receiving care.” Hannah Fish, PharmD, the director of strategic initiatives at the National Community Pharmacists Association, told Healthline.
If you live in one of the states that allows pharmacists to prescribe hormonal birth control, you can get a prescription from an online pharmacy or directly from a local pharmacist.
Depending on where you live, there may be differences in what medications you can receive.
With Wisp, another popular online pharmacy, you can get prescribed online and pick up the medication at your local pharmacy.
If you’d like to get the prescription and medications directly from a pharmacist, visit a local pharmacy and let them know you are interested in being prescribed birth control.
“Patients wanting to get birth control from the pharmacy are able to walk in and ask for it, much like asking for a flu shot,” says Fish.
You can also check the pharmacy’s website or give them a call and ask if this is a service they offer.
“You could easily find out if a pharmacist on staff there provides birth control by checking the website or giving the pharmacy a call,” Sarah McBane, PharmD, a health sciences clinical professor and founding associate dean for pharmacy education at the UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, said.
At the pharmacy, you will have to fill out a health screening form that includes questions about your medical history, so be prepared to share details about your overall heath and any medications you take.
The pharmacist may also take your blood pressure.
This process will help the pharmacist determine which types of hormonal birth control are safe for you to take and help you evaluate the risks, benefits, and costs.
“The answers to these questions are used to determine if someone is an appropriate candidate for receiving birth control at the pharmacy and may help determine which contraceptive is best,” McBane said.
If any risk factors are identified, your pharmacist will refer you to an OB/GYN or primary care doctor, says Fish.
A recent survey from Wolters Kluwer found that some Americans are concerned about the safety of being prescribed medication from a pharmacist.
About two-thirds of participants said they worried about potential medication interactions.
“Birth control pills are available OTC in some countries and some stakeholders are promoting that model for the US; until then, pharmacists are a great place to seek contraception,” McBane said.
According to the Wolters Kluwer survey, most Americans — 72% — feel comfortable being prescribed medications by a pharmacist.
The most convincing reason: more affordable care.
The cost of prescription medications has surged in recent years, increasing, on average, by 6 to 10%.
Approximately 44% of Americans don’t fill their prescription because they can’t afford it.
The shift in care from primary care doctor to pharmacy has reduced healthcare costs and barriers for patients.
It can take months to get an appointment with an OB/GYN or primary care doctor, says Fish, and pharmacists can help people get the medications they need sooner.
In addition, pharmacies are typically open for longer hours and on weekends when doctor’s office and health care clinics are typically closed.
“Pharmacists are the most accessible health care provider,” McBane said. “This means that someone could still get birth control without having to take time off of work.”
By expanding this authority to pharmacists, the number of unintended pregnancies can also be reduced, Fish noted.
“In the first two years that Oregon allowed pharmacists to prescribe birth control, 50 unintended pregnancies were prevented and the state save $1.6 million,” Fish said.
In the past few years, many states have passed laws permitting pharmacists to prescribe hormonal birth control. By allowing pharmacists to prescribe hormonal birth control, the costs for care and barriers preventing people from accessing care can be significantly reduced. Getting birth control prescriptions through a pharmacists is safe and effective and could help prevent unintended pregnancies.