Pharmacists’ Services to Increase Under New Law

The next time a California woman runs into the local pharmacy, she can pick up more than ibuprofen and bandages. Under a new state law, women will soon be able to walk into the local drug store pharmacy and get a prescription for birth control, leaving with them the same day.

Walgreens on the UC San Francisco’s campus will be the first in the state to take part in the new program. Pharmacists in California are now able to prescribe birth control or hormonal contraception. SB 493 was actually passed two years ago, but officials are just now finalizing necessary regulations to put the law into effect. The new law is expected to be in effectual by the end of 2015.

While the law primarily surrounds birth control, it also gives pharmacists the ability to prescribe and fill medications for traveling abroad and smoking cessation. These medical professionals can also inject children aged three and above with routine vaccinations. Pharmacists will soon be able to order necessary lab tests and adjust drug treatment regimens. The whole idea behind the law is to make medical care more convenient for patients.

Concern over doctor shortages spurred the law. As health care laws are changing, there simply are not enough doctors to go around. Advocates for the law point to California as being the first state to realize that pharmacists can help fill the deficit. Pharmacists are trained for these types of actions while in school, but they rarely get the chance to perform the services.

Unfortunately for these medical professionals, more work and additional responsibilities do not equal more pay. Pharmacists will not be additionally compensated for the new duties. For the powers that be, this is good news. The additional duties taken on by the pharmacists will come at a lower cost than if those same services were provided by a physician.

Doctors who are opposed to the new law worry that women will forego annual testing. As it stands, a woman must visit her doctor to be prescribed hormonal contraception in an appointment that often includes a pap smear. Advocates say that the prevention of unwanted or risky pregnancies outweighs the risks.

If the law works well, nurse practitioners and optometrists may see their duties increased. Other states are keeping a close eye on California and its new law. If things go as planned, more states may enact similar laws.

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