Reducing Birth Control Barriers at the Pharmacy Counter

Each year, nearly half of the 6 million pregnancies in the United States are unintended. This National Pharmacy Week, we want to take this opportunity to highlight the important role pharmacists can play toward breaking down barriers to contraceptive care and helping close the gap in access to the birth control pill, particularly in rural areas.

Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense birth control directly to patients, eliminating the need for a separate visit to a health care provider. These state “Pharmacy access” laws can break down the time and transportation barriers that stand in the way of patients getting or refilling a prescription, helping to close gaps in birth control access.

Since our organization’s founding eight years ago, Upstream has been 100% focused on expanding equitable access to the full range of contraceptive options. We are proud of the expertise and resources we offer our health center partners because it equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to make transformative and sustainable changes to their practice and increase access to the full-range of contraceptive options.

Our work to support patient’s equitable access to contraceptive care extends beyond the exam room – Upstream advocates for legislation allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control because we know these policies make contraceptive care more accessible and affordable. In 2021, Upstream worked closely with the North Carolina Pharmacy Association, Duke University, University of North Carolina and Power to Decide to pass House Bill 96, which gave pharmacists authority to prescribe and dispense oral (the pill) and transdermal (the patch) contraception. This work is ongoing and Upstream continues to advocate for the quality training pharmacists in North Carolina need to provide patient-centered contraceptive care in their pharmacies, empowering more patients to decide when and if they want to become pregnant.

To learn more about the birth control pill, we recommend reviewing Free the Pill’s frequently asked questions. Reference Guttmacher Institute for more information about the latest state laws and policies surrounding pharmacist-prescribed contraceptives.

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