Access to birth control may become a lot easier for women in Colorado: Under new health rules, some contraceptives—like the Pill or the Patch—will be available to women with just a pharmacist’s prescription rather than one from a doctor.
According to the Denver Post, the rules stem from a 2016 law that gave medical professionals and the health department the opportunity to “create protocols for pharmacists to provide services that tackle public health needs.” As long as a woman is at least 18, she will be able to obtain a prescription for birth control pills or patches after consulting with a pharmacist. As part of the screening process, women will be given a questionnaire asking about her chance of pregnancy, as well as questions about her medical history (like smoking history, high blood pressure, stroke, and breast cancer) that could indicate whether or not it is safe for her to use these types of contraception. Pharmacist Gina Moore, who is the assistant dean of the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy, told the Post that an estimated 10 percent of women will then be referred to a doctor for further consultation based on the questionnaire.
Further, the rules require women who are taking oral contraceptives to visit a doctor at least once every three years. Even if a prescription for the pill is initially granted by a pharmacist, a woman will still need to check in with her doctor at least once within that three-year span to continue the prescription long-term. But for college students who are far from their OB-GYNs or need a first-time prescription for the Pill—or for people in rural areas where the pharmacy is closer than a doctor—the rules ease the burden of having to visit a physician to obtain a prescription or consult with their primary-care provider for a refill.
Though some health care providers worry that the rules will have an adverse affect on patient care, the rules require any pharmacist who participates in the new program to have liability insurance, complete state-certified training, and notify a patient’s primary-care physician when birth control is prescribed. The rules also state that participation is not mandatory and pharmacists can recuse themselves if they object on moral or ethical grounds.
With these rules, Colorado joins the ranks of California and Oregon, states that have signed similar laws into effect, and a handful of others that have introduced comparable measures to make contraceptives more accessible. Though the specifics of the Colorado rules are still being finalized, pharmacies could begin issuing birth control prescriptions as early as April.