Council Member David Catania (I-At Large) introduced a bill yesterday to allow pharmacists to dispense oral contraceptives to patients without a prescription from a doctor. The bill is intended to increase access to contraception among patient populations who may not be able to afford the office visit to have a doctor prescribe it.
Specifically, the bill would authorize the DC Boards of Pharmacy and Medicine (the bodies which issue licenses to pharmacists and doctors, respectively) to come up with some rules to govern the process by which pharmacists could dispense hormonal birth control without a prescription.
Under that program, pharmacists must first obtain an additional certification beyond their pharmacy license from the DC Board of Pharmacy to administer immunizations. Then they must work with doctors to actually provide vaccines to patients, but there are two tiers of this collaboration. For most vaccinations (like your basic school immunizations, or travel vaccines), the specific pharmacist (not the pharmacy) must have permission from specific doctors to administer specific vaccines to their particular patients, either by prescription or by standing order. But for influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, pharmacists can get permission from one DC-licensed physician to administer those to all the pharmacist’s patients, 18 or 0ver.
So it’s not clear yet which way the Boards would choose to go in setting the rules for how hormonal contraception would be administered, or if they would choose, for example, to choose the more doctor-restricted approach for things like the patch and the ring, while going with a looser set of rules for the pill.
Disclosure: I am employed by a professional association for pharmacists. This article is entirely my own work and opinion and should not be construed as the opinion of, or an endorsement by, my employer.