Improving access to birth control for Arizona patients: Making contraceptives available without a prescription at your local pharmacy

This week rules were approved to allow Arizona patients 18 years old and older to access contraceptives at their local pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription. A standing order allows pharmacists to provide patients with needed birth control including hormonal contraceptive patches, vaginal rings, and oral contraceptives. 

Arizona joins more than 20 other states that have implemented statutes or regulations allowing licensed and trained pharmacists to dispense United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved self-administered hormonal contraceptives to patients without an individualized prescription. 

During the 2021 Legislative Session, Senate Bill 1082 was passed into law and signed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. The Board of Pharmacy proposed rules just approved by the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council to guide implementation of the program throughout Arizona.  

ADHS has issued a statewide standing order for self-administered hormonal birth control to aid implementation of the statute, enabling patients to visit pharmacies in their community to obtain the contraceptives, a critical factor for expanding access and services. This order was written with the collaborative input of the Arizona section of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Arizona Board of Pharmacy and the Arizona Pharmacy Association. 

Expansion of access to contraception is in line with the Healthy People 2030 objectives related to preventing unintended pregnancy and increasing contraceptive use. 

The ADHS Standing Order (Order) goes into effect immediately. However, implementing this new statute may take some time for pharmacies and their staff, and they are not required to participate. Members of the public can call ahead to their pharmacy to confirm they will be able to have their contraceptive dispensed at that location. Of note under the statute, other licensed prescribers may issue a standing prescription drug order authorizing pharmacists to dispense self-administered hormonal contraceptives without a patient-specific prescription.

Members of the public who have questions can contact the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy.

Contraceptive dispensing process

Patients seeking to leverage the Order will be required to complete a nationally-recognized screening tool prior to a pharmacist dispensing hormonal contraception and to have their blood pressure measured. Patients are financially responsible for the service and may provide proof of insurance or out-of-pocket payment. 

  • Determine patient eligibility – The pharmacist shall determine that the patient is 18 years old or older. Patients who are pregnant or under the age of 18 are not eligible to receive hormonal contraceptives under the Order. 
  • Use a nationally recognized self-screening risk assessment – The patient is required to complete a questionnaire including health information and attestation of their request for contraception during their initial request and annually thereafter. 
  • Obtain information about health and medication history – The pharmacist will identify any clinical factors that would make dispensing hormonal contraception without medical supervision unsafe for the patient. If the questionnaire indicates the patient’s preferred method is unsafe without medical supervision, the medication will not be dispensed. Patients will be referred to a physician or other applicable health provider for additional care or guidance on contraceptive methods.
  • Measure blood pressure – The pharmacist or technician will measure the patient’s blood pressure to ensure safe dispensing of a hormonal contraceptive. 
  • Determine type of FDA-approved self-administered hormonal contraceptive to dispense – The pharmacist will take into account the Standard Procedures Algorithm in the Order and the patient’s preference to determine the appropriate self-administered hormonal contraceptive to dispense. 

To review ADHS’ Standing Order for Self-Administered Hormonal Contraception and Title V Reproductive Health/Family Planning Services visit ADHS’ website.

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