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New York now allows pharmacists to dispense birth control without a prescription

States first began granting contraception-prescribing authority to pharmacists in 2016

New York has joined the roster of states that allow pharmacists to dispense hormonal contraceptives without a prescription from a doctor.

States began granting contraception-prescribing authority to pharmacists in 2016, when both California and Oregon passed laws allowing the practice. The measures have gained steam since and have since expanded to 28 states and the District of Columbia, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, which conducts research on reproductive health policy.

The language of the laws varies by state, however, with some states specifying which contraceptives are covered and others referring more broadly to “self-administered hormonal contraceptives.” Some states also require special training for pharmacists.

In New York, the state health department issued a standing order to make the oral hormonal pill, the hormonal vaginal ring, and the hormonal contraceptive patch available without a prescription. Pharmacists are now permitted to dispense up to a 12-month supply of these contraceptives.

“By issuing a standing order to allow pharmacists to provide hormonal contraception medications, more people can choose the right reproductive care for themselves and the right time for them to have a child,” said Dr. James McDonald, New York State Health Commissioner.

The New York State Department of Education has developed a set of competencies required for pharmacists who choose to participate. Pharmacists are required to maintain their own documentation of training.

Participating pharmacists could begin dispensing hormonal contraceptives over the next several weeks, the Health Department said.

“A patient’s pharmacy is often more available and convenient than a physician’s office or reproductive health care office, especially when time is of the essence,” said Leigh McConchie, president of the board of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York.

Several other states enacted laws last year that allow pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives, including Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont (emergency contraception), according to the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations.

The retail pharmacy industry has been seeking to gain not only contraceptive prescribing authority, but also HIV PrEP/PEP prescribing authority, test-and-treat authorization, vaccine authorization, and other capabilities at both the state and national level. According to the NASPA, 180 bills relating to pharmacist scope of practice, payment for pharmacist-provided patient care services, and/or the designation of pharmacists as providers were introduced in 43 states in the 2023 state legislative sessions.

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