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Bill allowing pharmacists to dispense birth control pills without a prescription endorsed at public hearing

By DAVE SOLOMON
State House Bureau

January 12. 2018 12:18AM




CONCORD — A bill that would allow birth control pills to be dispensed by pharmacists without a prescription will reduce unintended pregnancies and health care costs, according to a range of speakers in support of HB 1822 at a State House public hearing on Thursday.

“The intent is to improve access to hormonal contraceptives, prevent unintended pregnancy and reduce the cost of health care by allowing routine things to be done by lower cost providers,” said Rep. William Marsh, R-Wolfeboro, one of the bill’s sponsors and a member of the commission that studied the issue last year.

The 16-member commission had only four lawmakers — Reps. Mariellen MacKay, R-Nashua; Peter Schmidt, D-Dover; Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester; and Marsh. The other seats were occupied by representatives of various stakeholder groups, such as the state Pharmacists Association, Board of Pharmacy, Medical Society and Board of Nursing.

The bill they drafted calls for creation of a statewide protocol that would serve as a sort of universal prescription, so pharmacists can use standing orders to dispense birth control pills to women who want them without going to see doctors first.

Pharmacists in California, Oregon and Washington state are able to prescribe contraceptives, and are paid for the evaluation they have to conduct in addition to the drugs.

At least 11 other states and the District of Columbia are considering similar legislation. Many professional groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Family Physicians, have endorsed the concept.

When asked by lawmakers on the House Health and Human Services Committee what problem the bill is seeking to solve, Patricia Tilley, deputy director of Public Health Services at DHHS, was succinct.

“The problem is access,” she said. “The problem is that more than four in 10 births in New Hampshire are unintended, and we need to address that at all levels in our system.”

“We are primarily interested in ensuring there is access (to birth control) for low-income families or women who do not have access to health care,” she said. “In order to get that first prescription for contraceptives, we want to remove as many barriers as we can.”

The term statewide protocol refers to a document that would specify the conditions under which pharmacists would be authorized to prescribe pills, patches or rings approved by the FDA by prescription for contraception or emergency contraception.

Pharmacist Mike Bullock, administrator and chief of compliance for the Board of Pharmacy, said many of the details of the statewide protocol and standing orders for prescriptions would have to be handled in the rule-making process if the bill becomes law.

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s going to be easy,” he said. “There is a learning curve any time we add something new. You have to start small and work your way up.”

He said the current generation of pharmacists is well-equipped to deal with drugs that are likely to be approved by the FDA for over the counter sale in the next few years anyway.

“The kids coming out of school now are so much more involved in the clinical end of medicine, this is a great opportunity to really have a good process in place,” he said.

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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