Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie (D – Ward 5) released the following statement today regarding the “Access to Contraceptives Amendment Act of 2016.”
The District of Columbia is tied with Mississippi, at 62 percent for the highest rate of unintended pregnancies in the nation. Unplanned births can be costly and significantly impact those who may already be struggling financially. We also see disparities by ward. Unintended and teen pregnancy rates have dropped in every ward since 2002 except in Wards 5, 7, and 8.
This bill will expand access to contraceptives, and in so doing, tackle the issue of unintended pregnancies head-on by allowing pharmacists to dispense certain forms of contraceptives directly, without a prescription.
Currently, women must obtain an annual prescription from a physician for most self-administered hormonal contraceptives. This requirement burdens women who do not have a primary care physician or for whom access to a physician is irregular or inconvenient. It also prioritizes exclusively physician-based care at a time when many women rely on team-based healthcare in community settings.
Women who are unable to regularly obtain self-administered hormonal contraceptives from a physician may turn to other, less reliable forms or worse yet, no contraception at all.
This bill would allow licensed pharmacists to dispense self-administered hormonal contraceptives – including pills and patches – without a prescription if certified by the Board of Pharmacy and according to a written protocol established by the Boards of Pharmacy and Medicine. The patient would first be screened for risk factors based on eligibility criteria promulgated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and must be referred to a primary care provider or clinic after dispensing or if the use is not recommended. The bill requires regulations to be issued by the Boards by October 1, 2017.
The bill complements a process already in development through the Department of Health to allow for collaborative practice agreements whereby pharmacists work with physicians to dispense similarly low-risk medicines and vaccinations.
A number of other jurisdictions are moving in a similar direction. California, Washington, and Oregon now allow for pharmacist-dispensed self-administered hormonal contraceptives, and legislation is pending in South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, and Hawaii.