California women can soon go right to the pharmacist for birth control

Under a new California law, women will be able to go to a pharmacy, get a prescription for birth control, get it filled, and walk out 15 minutes later. The law, SB 493, was passed in 2013. State health officials are now finalizing the regulations for the law to take effect.

Under a new California law, women will be able to go to a pharmacy, get a prescription for birth control, get it filled, and walk out 15 minutes later. The law, SB 493, was passed in 2013. State health officials are now finalizing the regulations for the law to take effect. The California pharmacy board met on June 4 to review them, and the law is expected to be fully implemented later this year. The law also authorizes pharmacists to prescribe medications for smoking cessation and travel abroad. Pharmacists can administer routine vaccinations to children aged 3 years and older. They can order lab tests and adjust drug regimens for patients with diabetes, hypertension, or other conditions. "The pharmacist is really an untapped resource," says Lisa Kroon, a professor at University of California, San Francisco's school of pharmacy. "We are graduating students that are ready for this, but the laws just haven't kept up with what the pharmacist training already is." The law does not compel insurance companies or Medi-Cal to reimburse these services, notes Jon Roth, CEO of the California Pharmacists Association. In the long run, Roth says the law could ultimately save money, because reimbursement rates for pharmacists will inevitably be lower than what doctors charge. "We are working to try and identify where it makes sense to pay pharmacists as opposed to other more expensive providers in the health care delivery system," he says.