Getting the Pill without a Prescription Has Just Gotten Easier

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By Tommeka Semien


New legislation has made it possible for women ages 18 and older to get oral contraceptives from a pharmacist without ever visiting a doctor.

Colorado joins California and Oregon in making birth control available without a visit to a doctor. On June 6, 2016, Colorado’s governor, John W. Hickenlooper, signed the Collaborative Pharmacy Practice Agreements SB 16 – 135 into law. The bill makes it legal for a pharmacist to prescribe birth control to women who do not have significant risk factors. Risk will be assessed with a confidential questionnaire similar to one currently in use in Oregon.

The availability of prescription birth control for women has been one of the most critical medical developments for helping women manage their reproductive health. Still, many women don’t have easy access to it making this step by Colorado significant. Dr. Gina Moore with the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy says that a University of California study suggests that “access to over-the-counter birth control could reduce unplanned pregnancies by 25%.”



Women who are not pregnant or do not have underlying health risks may be prescribed a prescription by participating pharmacists. To ensure women’s health, women must visit a doctor at least once every three years. In addition, their primary physician is notified of the prescription just as they would in the case of an emergency room visit.

Pharmacists who are willing to provide a prescription for birth control must participate in a certification course. The course will help them counsel women to choose the most appropriate birth control; understand the importance of adhering to prescription instructions; and determine if a woman would be better served by seeing a women’s health care provider.

Approved by the FDA for contraceptive use in 1960, it is estimated that approximately 16% of women ages 15 to 44 use the pill. The birth control pill uses hormones to prevent ovulation and to reduce the ability of sperm to reach the ovary. When used perfectly, less than 2% of women become pregnant with this birth control method. The pill may also minimize the uncomfortable side effects of the menstrual cycle and reduce the risk of developing certain cancers.

In Colorado OTC services will be available beginning early April.   To learn more about the opinion of women’s health care providers regarding OTC birth control, visit www.acog.org

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