Women’s Health: Pharmacist’s New Role in Contraceptives
In many states, the pharmacist’s role regarding birth control has changed in recent years to include the role of prescriber. Some states have started to give permission for pharmacists to start prescribing birth control, and the interest for this in other states is expanding (2). Despite this shown interest, there has been some opposition to pharmacists prescribing birth control. Some state that their opposition comes from pharmacists not having the proper training, safety protocols and fragmentation of care (2). An article was subsequently published examines these oppositions and supports the idea of a pharmacist as an advocate in this space (2). This article went into depth about each of the oppositions to show the ways that pharmacists are fully capable of prescribing these medications (2).
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The first opposition that they addressed was that many were concerned for the safety of the process due to the adverse events that can occur with hormonal contraception (2). The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) U.S. Special Practice Recommendations for Contraceptive Use stated that there was only one test that needed to be done before initiating hormonal contraception and that was a blood pressure assessment (2). This assessment is also only needed for combined contraceptives, not progestin-only pills. Considering that is the only test needed, pharmacists are trained in measuring blood pressure readings and within a study it showed that 98.3% of pharmacists are comfortable measuring blood pressure (2). Also, for safety it is recommended that providers identify specific conditions that are found in the U.S. Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use (2). This can be completed through a simple questionnaire, so pharmacists should have no issues dealing with this component of safety for the patients.
Lack of Training
Another issue with pharmacists prescribing that was shown in the article was that there is a lack of training (2). People were basically concerned that pharmacists do not have sufficient training to be able to prescribe contraceptives, but pharmacists are highly trained to be the medication expert within the healthcare world (2).The majority of pharmacists have been given ample training and have had contraception education during their doctorate programs (2). There was even an activity done with pharmacy students that showed that 88.9% of students after completing the activity felt confident prescribing contraception (2).
Opposing Pharmacists Prescribing Contraceptives To Patients
Considering all of this information, the majority of what people are opposed to with pharmacists prescribing does not have the evidence to back up their arguments (2). Pharmacists are the medication expert and they do have the ability to accurately prescribe contraceptives to patients. They are also more accessible than doctors, so this can be a good implementation for the community to get better access to contraceptive care.
Hormonal Contraceptives FDA Approved
There is also another development that pharmacists should be aware of within the area of hormonal contraception. There has recently been an over-the-counter option for hormonal contraception approved by the FDA. This recently approved OTC hormonal contraceptive is a progestin-only birth control pill named Opill ® (norgestrel) (1).
Having this non-prescription birth control option has the possibility to reduce barriers of access to oral contraceptives, but there are some mixed feelings about the decision to release an over-the-counter option (3). Some medical professionals do not believe that the benefit of this access outweighs the possible risks that can come from taking the medication. However, the American Medical Association (AMA) stated that the risk that comes with women being pregnant outweighs the risk that women have from taking oral contraceptives (3).
OTC Options & Access To Oral Contraceptives
The statement from the AMA brings out another huge way this OTC option is going to be beneficial for women. By having better access to oral contraceptives, it can reduce the amount of unintended pregnancies and therefore help reduce the amount of high risk pregnancies among women (3). This hormonal contraceptive is going to help with better outcomes for many women and help them get easier access to birth control that they may have been difficult for them to access in the past.
Contraception Care Training For Pharmacists
Looking through all of these new and exciting opportunities for pharmacists, some may be wanting to refresh their knowledge on the different contraceptives. There is a specialty program on contraceptive care that can be found here for pharmacists. This program goes through the fundamentals of selecting the best contraceptive and provides 6 CEs that are self-paced lessons. The specialty program can be found linked below:
- Commissioner, O. of the. (n.d.). FDA Approves First Nonprescription Daily Oral Contraceptive. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-nonprescription-daily-oral-contraceptive
- Mitchell M, Stauffenberg C, Vernon V, Mospan CM, Shipman AJ, Rafie S. Opposition to Pharmacist Contraception Services: Evidence for Rebuttal. Pharmacy (Basel). 2020;8(4):176. Published 2020 Sep 23. doi:10.3390/pharmacy8040176
- O’Neal S, Silva J, Crew A. Increasing Accessibility to Birth Control: Over the Counter Oral Birth Control. Celebration of Research. Published online April 20, 2023. Accessed September 20, 2023. https://nwcommons.nwciowa.edu/celebrationofresearch/2023/researchprojects2023/1/