Getting birth control will be a lot of easier for women in New Mexico under a new regulation by the state Pharmacy Board.
Pharmacists for the first time will be able to write prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives, meaning a woman won’t need to visit a physician in most cases to obtain birth control. New Mexico joins a short list of states that allow the practice.
The rule takes effect Friday, but pharmacists will still need to be trained before they can write the prescriptions.
Supporters of the regulation say it is needed because many women have limited access to physicians, and they say the rule could help address high rates of unintended pregnancy in the state, including those among teenagers.
Once pharmacists are trained, a woman will be able to obtain both a prescription and a contraceptive in a single visit to a pharmacist, said Denicia Cadena, a policy director for Young Women United, an Albuquerque organization that helped push for the new rule.
Rural communities often lack obstetrics and gynecology providers or even primary care providers, Cadena said, which means for many women, obtaining a birth control prescription is no easy task.
“Across our rural state, people are experiencing three- to six-month wait times for primary care and even longer for specialty care,” she said.
Data released last year by The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center show two counties — Harding and Hidalgo — had no primary care doctors, while 11 of the state’s 33 counties had no obstetrics and gynecology physicians.
Dale Tinker, executive director of the New Mexico Pharmacists Association, said the group began pushing in 2011 for a regulation allowing pharmacists to write birth control prescriptions, citing high rates of unintended pregnancies in the state.
“The point of this is to really increase access for women so they can go to their pharmacy to get prescriptions,” he said. “So they don’t have to make an appointment, which can be weeks out.”
The state Board of Pharmacy, the New Mexico Board of Nursing and the state Medical Board agreed on protocols authorizing pharmacists to issue contraceptive prescriptions, Tinker said, and the Board of Pharmacy in April set the regulation that pharmacists must follow in writing the prescriptions.
According to the protocols, when a patient requests a contraceptive, the pharmacist will assess the need. The pharmacist will measure the patient’s blood pressure but perform no other physical exams.
The pharmacist will provide the patient with information about contraceptive choices. With the signed consent of the patient or guardian, the pharmacist will notify the patient’s designated physician or primary care provider of the prescription, according to the protocol.
“Prescriptive authority shall be limited to hormonal contraception drug therapy and shall exclude any device intended to prevent pregnancy after intercourse,” the regulations say.
Accredited organizations will offer training on the new prescriptive authority for the roughly 1,600 pharmacists in the state, Tinker said.
The training will inform pharmacists on specific contraceptives and the types of medical issues that require a referral to a doctor before a patient may obtain a prescription, he said.
The New Mexico Pharmacists Association will offer such training, Tinker said, and he expects the College of Pharmacy at The University of New Mexico will include the training in its curriculum.
Hormonal methods of birth control use hormones to regulate or stop ovulation and prevent pregnancy through various methods that include pills, patches and rings.
Contact Justin Horwath at 505-986-3017 or firstname.lastname@example.org.