No local pharmacies offer the newly legal non-prescription morning-after pill, which may not be available until April.
Effective Jan. 1, the new law authorizes pharmacists to provide emergency contraception (EC), commonly referred to as the “morning-after pill.” EC should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex and is considered a form of contraception, which means it will not cause an abortion or harm a developing fetus. In the past, only medical doctors were qualified to prescribe EC to a patient.
The bill requires pharmacists to successfully complete a training program through the Board of Pharmacy or by the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education (ACPE) before he or she is able to provide EC. In addition, the pharmacist must provide the patient with a standardized fact sheet about the pill, California Pharmacy Associations Vice President Michael Negrete said.
“It’s not an over-the-counter medicine,” he said. “You have to talk to a pharmacists, make sure it’s the right thing for this person … A pharmacists can be used as an access point for health care.”
According to the California Pharmacy Board, the required training program will possibly delay the availability of the pill.
Planned Parenthood Vice President of Public Affairs Christine Lyon said although the law has already gone into effect, Planned Parenthood is currently the only place in Santa Barbara offering EC without a prescription from a physician.
” The reality is the law did go into effect, but as far as the pharmacies are concerned I don’t think [EC] will be out [until] sometime in April,” she said. “I think it’s good that [EC] will be readily available and gives women another option. We have to make sure women know it’s available now at Planned Parenthood.”
Rite Aid Spokeswoman Sarah Datz said individual pharmacies will have to first decide whether or not they want to carry the drug.
“It’s a special circumstance. First, we are going to gauge the interest of our pharmacists in carrying the drug. It’s voluntary, not required, to offer the pill,” she said. “It may be a number of months before even select locations have the drug.”
The CPA reports that since the introduction of pharmacist-initiated emergency contraception in 1998 in Washington state, the only other state with this program, the state’s abortion rate fell to its lowest level in two decades and teen pregnancy has declined by 7 percent. Washington State Pharmacy Board executive director Don Williams said the law has had a positive effect on the state and has prevented unwanted pregnancies.
“We believe the law has made a difference. It is obviously difficult to make an absolute connection between the lowered numbers [and the availability of EC],” he said. “The dispensing, before, when it was through a physician prescription, was very minimal, whereas thousands of patients have received it since [the law] has gone into effect.”
The CPA also reported that the average age of women who sought EC in Washington from a pharmacist was 24.5 years and 85 percent were over the age 18.
Negrete said he believes this statistic shows the number of minors who will try to access the pill will be minimal.
“It’s not just a bunch of young people running around. It’s mostly older women. We get a lot of accidents [with adults],” he said.