Soon it is expected that Arizonans will be able to get birth control pills without a prescription.
Expanded access could go into effect as early as July 5, according to state health officials.
A 2021 law signed by former Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, allows Arizona pharmacists to dispense self-administered contraceptives (the pill, patch or ring) to patients who are at least 18 years of age based on to a standing order, said Tom Herrmann, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Health Services.
A statewide “standing order” means that there is an order for pharmacists to dispense birth control without the need for patients to get patient-specific prescriptions, similar to the standing order that allows Arizonans to buy naloxone from pharmacies without a prescription.
For birth control, patients will be asked to complete a questionnaire to help determine the appropriate contraceptive and also whether or not the patient should be referred to a nearby clinic or health care provider, Herrmann wrote in an email.
The original bill, Senate Bill 1082, was sponsored by Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, and had bipartisan support, as well as support from the Arizona Medical Association, the Arizona Pharmacy Association, and Arizona Public Health Association. The Arizona House of Representatives passed the bill by 33 to 24 votes and the state Senate passed it by a 21 to 8 vote.
The law still needs approval from the Governor’s Regulatory Review Board and must be filed with the Arizona Office of the Secretary of State, Herrmann wrote. Next, the state health department will implement the standing order as soon as possible, “which could happen around July 5,” Herrmann wrote.
“We prepared the standing order after seeking input from the medical community and evaluating best practices in other states,” he said.
The law requires the Arizona Board of Pharmacy, in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Health Services and in consultation with a national professional organization specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, to “establish rules establishing standard procedures for pharmacists to follow” when dispensing hormonal self-administered contraceptives.
Arizona is one of 22 states with statutes or rules that allow pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraceptives, according to a Sept. 1, 2022 report from the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations. The other states are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia , Washington and West Virginia.
Kam Gandhi, executive director of the Arizona Board of Pharmacy, told The Arizona Republic this week that pharmacists will need to undergo three-hour training before they can dispense birth control.
While the new law is a boon to public health, it’s not without its drawbacks, said Will Humble, a former state health director who is executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association.
Allowing people to go to pharmacies to get birth control means some will skip what could be their one annual visit with a healthcare provider where they get screenings like PAP smears and general wellness checkups as well, Humble said.
“I think the benefits outweigh the risks, but that doesn’t mean the risks are zero,” said Humble. “I hate to see those yearly visits missed.”
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