Pharmacies Now Can Offer Birth Control To Women Without A Prescription, But Few Do

By Soumya Karlamangla
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A new study find pharmacists have not made use of a new law which allows women to get birth control without a prescription. The study suggests some are reluctant to because they’re concerned about liability, adequate staffing and a lack of reimbursement for the service.

LOS ANGELES

A new law in California allows women to pick up birth control pills from pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription.

But more than a year after the law took effect, women say they’re still struggling to get the medicines, in part because they can’t find pharmacies offering them.

A study released Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. found that only 11 percent of pharmacies in the state are dispensing hormonal birth control to women without prescriptions. Pharmacists don’t have to make use of the law, and some are reluctant to because they’re concerned about liability, adequate staffing and a lack of reimbursement for the service, the study found.

Also at play is a supply-demand problem, experts say: Pharmacists don’t want to invest in providing the service if women don’t want it, but women aren’t aware it’s an option and aren’t asking for it because pharmacies aren’t offering it.

“It’s hard to have demand for a service that doesn’t exist,” said UC Berkeley professor and study author Anu Manchikanti Gomez.

Typically, women have to make an annual appointment to see a gynecologist to get a prescription for birth control.

But health advocates argue that the doctor visit requirement creates an unnecessary barrier to contraception.

California’s law doesn’t make birth control over the counter. Instead, a pharmacist can provide hormonal birth control to a woman after administering a questionnaire about health issues that could raise red flags.

Ariel Genovese, 32, recently called several pharmacies near her home in Oakland about the law. Some pharmacists told her there wasn’t protocol from management to implement the law, and others said they hadn’t heard of it at all.

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