Few California retailers offer pharmacist-prescribed birth control, despite law

December 12, 2017 by Yasmin Anwar, University of California - Berkeley
Few California retailers offer pharmacist-prescribed birth control, despite law
Credit: University of California - Berkeley

A new law took effect in California last year allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control. But few of the state's pharmacies are actually offering this service, according to new UC Berkeley research.

A study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that just 11 percent of the state's more than 5,000 community-based offer birth control. Among those that do, the vast majority (68 percent) charge a fee for the service.

"Our findings strongly suggest that more pharmacies need to offer this service to live up to the promise of widespread, easier access to birth control," said study lead author Anu Manchikanti Gomez, an assistant professor of social welfare and director of the campus's Sexual Health and Reproductive Equity Program.

Enacted in 2013 and implemented in April 2016, the legislation aims to make it easier for women to obtain birth control, including contraceptive pills, patches, rings and injections, by getting it directly from a pharmacist without having to see a doctor or nurse first, thereby offering women more ways to avoid unplanned pregnancies.

The law does not require pharmacists to prescribe birth control but hopes to encourage them. Supporters argue that expanded access to is needed for low-income women, especially those in rural areas who can't afford to pay for doctor's visits, and for teenagers who may feel uncomfortable asking their family physician for a birth control prescription.

While insurance still covers the cost of the contraception itself, pharmacies may charge patients fees for birth-control-related services since insurers are currently not required to reimburse for them.

California, Oregon, Colorado and New Mexico are the four states that currently allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control once they have been trained on patients' and to counsel them about appropriate birth control for their needs.

To document the reach of -prescribed contraception, UC Berkeley researchers conducted telephone surveys of a representative sample of more than 1,000 California licensed pharmacies between February and April 2017. Most of the pharmacies were in urban areas and affiliated with retail chains, such as CVS and Safeway.

Interviewers asked staff if they offered birth control without a prescription from a doctor. If they said they did, interviewers followed up with questions about the types of contraception available and whether they charged service fees.

The results showed that one in 11 of the pharmacies called had pharmacists who could prescribe birth control, including birth control pills (77 percent), vaginal rings (40 percent), patches (38 percent) and injectable contraception (9 percent).

Of the drugstores that offered contraception, approximately 68 percent had set service fees of between $40 and $45, the study found.

"Even when contraception is available in pharmacies, it may not be economically accessible because of fees," the study points out.

Birth control is usually obtained through a prescription from a physician or other healthcare professional. The Affordable Care Act requires to cover contraception, though companies with religious or moral objections may opt out. A law passed in 2017 requires Medi-Cal to reimburse pharmacists who provide for the services they provide by 2021.

Explore further: New app ships affordable birth control to women, no doctor's visit required

More information: Availability of Pharmacist-Prescribed Contraception in California, 2017 JAMA. 2017;318(22):2253-2254. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2017.15674 , https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2665763?redirect=true

Related Stories

New app ships affordable birth control to women, no doctor's visit required

September 1, 2017
Whether it's a 30-year-old woman who has no time for doctor's visits, or an embarrassed teen who doesn't want to tell her parents she wants to use birth control, Nurx brings the doctor's visit to their palms and eliminates ...

Women in Oregon no longer need Rx for birth control

January 5, 2016
(HealthDay)—Oregon has become the first state to allow women to obtain birth control without a doctor's prescription.

Two states to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control

November 24, 2015
(HealthDay)—California and Oregon will soon implement groundbreaking laws that enable women to get contraceptives from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription.

Oregon's new birth control law increases access, but more still to be done

March 28, 2016
Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University, University of Minnesota School of Public Health and George Mason University applaud Oregon's new birth control law which allows women age 18 or older to obtain some methods ...

Oregon 1st to cover 12 months of birth control at a time

June 12, 2015
It's a like ritual for women across the nation: frequent treks to the pharmacist to refill birth control prescriptions.

Hormonal contraception is safer than expected for women with diabetes

December 15, 2016
Strokes and heart attacks are rare for women with diabetes who use hormonal contraception, with the safest options being intrauterine devices (IUDs) and under-the-skin implants, new research published in Diabetes Care shows.

Recommended for you

Removing sweets from checkouts linked to dramatic fall in unhealthy snack purchases

December 18, 2018
Policies aimed at removing sweets and crisps from checkouts could lead to a dramatic reduction to the amount of unhealthy food purchased to eat 'on the go' and a significant reduction in that purchased to take home, suggests ...

Junk food diet raises depression risk, researchers find

December 18, 2018
A diet of fast food, cakes and processed meat increases your risk of depression, according to researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Children of problem drinkers more likely to marry someone with a drinking problem: study

December 18, 2018
Children of parents who have alcohol use disorder are more likely to get married under the age of 25, less likely to get married later in life, and more likely to marry a person who has alcohol use disorder themselves, according ...

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...

Study shows magnesium optimizes vitamin D status

December 14, 2018
A randomized trial by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers indicates that magnesium optimizes vitamin D status, raising it in people with deficient levels and lowering it in people with high levels.

A holiday gift to primary care doctors: Proof of their time crunch

December 14, 2018
The average primary care doctor needs to work six more hours a day than they already do, in order to make sure their patients get all the preventive and early-detection care they want and deserve, a new study finds.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.