Bill Would Let Women Get Birth Control Over-the-Counter

By Briana Vannozzi

“We can save hospitalizations, we can save doctor visits, we can keep these patients healthy. These are things we’re trained to do and we just need the chance to do it,” said Clark Boyd, pharmacist and owner of Boyd’s Pharmacy.

Boyd can tick off a number of reasons he supports new legislation that will allow pharmacists to dispense oral birth control pills for women and girls, without a doctor’s script.

“The Pharmacists are graduating with a doctor of pharmacy degree. They are well qualified. Their clinical background is right up to snuff,” he said.

“This is one way to eliminate an additional financial burden on women and also, more importantly, to provide them with easier access to contraception,” said Sen. Shirley Turner.

Turner sponsored the bill. Here’s how it would work. Pharmacists would complete a training program designed by the state Board of Pharmacy. Women will be required to fill out self-screening exams to determine any risk factors for using oral birth control. Together they’ll make a decision on the best type. They’ll avoid copays for a doctor’s visit and get the medication right in their community.

ACOG, which is our American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has recommended that women and teens be able to obtain oral contraceptives over-the-counter even without the pharmacist so I think this is a good start of moving toward that,” said Dr. Charletta Ayers, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

But the doctor cautions women should get regular exams.

Currently, California, Oregon and Washington have similar legislation. At least one state charges a $10 counseling fee for the extra service to customers. That’s caused some debate.

“We now do immunizations, we do consultations with asthma, diabetes and disease stage review medications, we do all these things, and we’re starting to expand those programs — none of which we really get reimbursed from the insurance industry for the work we do,” Boyd said.

“Of course my feeling is the customer should not. If they have insurance it should come out of their insurance as it would if they were to go to a doctor,” Turner said.

The state Pharmacists Association says the bill would keep New Jersey up with the times.

“Community pharmacists are very accessible they’re in every neighborhood. They’re probably the most accessible community health care provider. Patients routinely come to pharmacies and ask questions of the pharmacists in any number of topics,” said Elise Barry.

At the same time, teen birth rates have dropped to an all time low, declining by more than 40 percent in the last 10 years. Experts point to one reason — better access to and more convenient contraception.

“This saves the state and taxpayers a lot of money if we can avoid unwanted, unplanned pregnancies,” Turner said.

The resolution cleared out of committee with bipartisan support but it’s still got a long way to go before becoming a reality.