ACOG Statement on Pharmacist Prescribing Laws

January 4, 2016

Washington, DC — Mark S. DeFrancesco, MD, MBA, President of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), released the following statement regarding state laws allowing pharmacists to prescribe oral contraceptives:

"ACOG has long supported over-the-counter access to oral contraceptives. Birth control is an essential part of women's health care, and over-the-counter status would help more women benefit from the ability to control their own reproductive health. Of course, decades of use have proven that oral contraceptives are safe for the vast majority of women, and that they are safer than many other medications that are already available over-the-counter.

"However, pharmacist prescribing laws are not the same thing as over-the-counter access. Requiring a pharmacist to prescribe and dispense oral contraceptives only replaces one barrier — a physician's prescription — with another. This is not going to allow us to reach women who remained underserved by the current prescribing requirements.

"As ob-gyns, we respect our pharmacist colleagues, who share our commitment to quality patient care. But we know from evidence and experience that oral contraceptives are safe enough for over-the-counter access, and do not require any prescription at all. Research has shown that women are very adept at self-screening for any potential risks. And, although some women may be at elevated risk of thromboembolism associated with hormonal contraceptives, we know that pregnancy raises that risk to a larger degree, so the ability to prevent pregnancy actually protects these women.

"Quite simply, the benefit of facilitating access to birth control is extensive - from helping some women prevent pregnancy reliably for the first time to improving adherence among long-term birth control users.

"Of course, we recognize that over-the-counter access to birth control is not a blanket solution. For example, we continue to stand by full, no-copay coverage of all FDA-approved methods of birth control, under the Affordable Care Act. We also continue to advocate for women to have unimpeded access to long-acting reversible contraceptives, which are much more effective at preventing pregnancy than oral hormonal contraceptives.

"Improving access to contraception will allow more women to live healthy, satisfying lives."

ACOG's Committee Opinion on Over-the-Counter Access to Oral Contraceptives can be found here.

ACOG's Committee Opinion on Access to Contraception can be found here.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation's leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 58,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization.

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