Expanding access to birth control in pharmacies: What do providers think?

Women in the United States can face multiple barriers to accessing their preferred birth control, including the need to obtain a prescription from a health care provider. There is mounting evidence that safely expanding access to birth control would have numerous benefits for women and health care systems. UCSF Bixby researchers joined a team to examine what providers think about a pharmacist-initiated model to make contraception easier to access. Under this model, contraceptives approved as prescription drugs by the US Food and Drug Administration are provided to women directly by a pharmacist. The pharmacist initiates the prescription, either as a prescriber or via an agreement with a licensed prescriber.

Overall, 74 percent of respondents supported pharmacist-initiated access for birth control pills, the transdermal patch and vaginal ring. At the same time, more than 70 percent of providers believed expanding access to hormonal birth control would significantly decrease reproductive health exams, as well as sexually transmitted infection screenings. Many providers did not anticipate changes in out-of-pocket costs for patients.

These findings demonstrate that health care providers support expanding access to hormonal birth control in pharmacies through pharmacist-initiated access — adding to the existing body of research that shows the safety of this approach, women's interest and pharmacists' interest. Policymakers should support initiatives to expand access to contraception in pharmacies and ensure insurance coverage no matter how women obtain their birth control.