Oregon Pharmacists Tasked to Improve
Access to Hormonal Birth Control

Frequently Asked Questions

What does this really mean? Click on a question to find the answer…


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What is the purpose of this law?

The purpose is to increase access to self-administered hormonal birth control, while addressing safety concerns, resulting in a decrease in unwanted pregnancies. Return to top of page.

Who thought of this proposal? 

Rep. Knute Buhler, a physician in Bend, Oregon, working with colleagues in the legislature envisioned a process through which patient access to prescriptions for self-administered hormonal birth control could be enhanced. The final version involved consultation with the Oregon State Board of Pharmacy and collaborative discussions among representatives from several health professions. Return to top of page.

Are all types of birth control included? 

No. Only self-administered oral or transdermal products are included. Return to top of page.

Will I have to use pharmacist prescribed birth control? 

No. The intent of the law is to expand access. It does not eliminate or limit any existing relationships with providers or drug delivery processes currently used by patients. Return to top of page.

Will my birth control still be covered by insurance? 

Yes. Both state and federal guidelines require insurance coverage for birth control. Return to top of page.

Who can access birth control through their pharmacist? 

All women 18 years old and greater can obtain medication through pharmacist prescribing. Women under the age of 18 must first demonstrate that they have been previously prescribed an oral contraceptive by a primary care provider. This restriction is scheduled to sunset in two years. Return to top of page.

Is my pharmacist required to prescribe birth control? 

All pharmacists have the capacity and opportunity to participate. Some pharmacists may decline to participate. This is allowed in Oregon rules, but there is a professional responsibility to refer the patient to an alternative pharmacy service provider. Return to top of page.

Are pharmacists qualified to be responsible for my reproductive health? 

Yes. Today’s typical pharmacy graduate in Oregon has first completed a Bachelor’s degree, is selected for admission through a competitive process and then completes the equivalent of four years of professional education, including classroom and direct patient care experiential education. All pharmacists are also required to complete ongoing continuing education. Return to top of page.

Will the pharmacist know what is the best product? 

A patient administered self-assessment survey will help to guide product selection. Pharmacists will also complete additional specialized education, defined by the State Board of Pharmacy, to complement their existing strong knowledge of drug action and drug products. Return to top of page.

Is it okay to access birth control without a physician’s visit? 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has called for improved access to contraceptives for women, including the possibility of over-the-counter status. Studies have suggested that patients with an appropriate survey document can effectively self-screen for risks. California has passed similar legislation and are also in the process of writing rules and enhancing pharmacist education. Return to top of page.

What if there are side effects resulting from the use of my birth control? 

All medications, including over-the-counter medications, have risks associated with them. The Oregon law involves pharmacists, rather than providing medications over-the-counter, to assure patients have a partner in assessing possible risks or side effects. Pharmacists, as for any professional, accept responsibility for decisions made and carry liability insurance to protect the patient and the pharmacist. Return to top of page.

When will this policy go into effect? 

The law allows pharmacist prescribing as early as January 1, 2016, but it is likely that it will not be widely implemented until midyear 2016. The State Board of Pharmacy (in consultation with the Oregon Medical Board, State Board of Nursing and Oregon Health Authority) must first define rules to guide practice and any additional educational requirements for pharmacists. Next, pharmacists must complete the educational unit and, finally, pharmacies must determine how to best incorporate this clinical service into their workflow. Return to top of page.

Does the OSPA support pharmacist prescribing of birth control? 

The Oregon State Pharmacist Association is an advocate for full utilization of pharmacists’ expertise to positively impact the health and wellness of all Oregonians. Pharmacists’ initiation of therapy when a diagnosis is not required or post-diagnostic management of diseases in collaboration with other health professionals is impactful and certainly within the scope of a pharmacist’s education and skill set. Return to top of page.

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