Last year the Utah State Legislature passed Senate Bill 184, Pharmacist Dispensing Authority Amendments. This new law would allow women to obtain hormonal contraceptives from a qualified pharmacist without a visit to the doctor. Over a year later, the program is being rolled out in some Utah pharmacies.
“Patients were thinking, ‘I’ll just walk to the counter, ask for my contraception and the pharmacist will hand it to me and tell me to have a nice day.' We were like, 'Oh dear!'” said Denise Kunkel, the pharmacy clinical programs manager for Associated Foods Stores in Utah.
“Even though there are no physical exams, we are required to do a full clinical assessment. Finding out what’s your medical history, possible red flags. We have to get your blood pressure and create a record just like it would be for a prescription. That takes a little bit more time, on average 17.9 minutes,” Kunkel said.
Women who haven’t used hormonal contraceptives before can still access this service, as long as they are over the age of 18. It’s important to note that there is a fee associated with the clinical assessment and patients can’t use the service to get out of a doctor’s visit either. If they use the service but don’t visit their physician for a health screening within two years, they are removed from the program.
“All US colleges of pharmacy are doctorate programs and so pharmacists are already experts on drugs. Although when this law was passed, it did stipulate that pharmacists get additional certificate training. It just sharpens their tools.”
Kunkel said she is excited about the program because it allows busy women to still access and make choices about their reproductive health.
“Life just gets in the way, right? Here’s one more avenue where we can make access to contraceptives easier for women,” she said.