DC pharmacists to start dispensing birth control?

Alyssa Moody Contributor
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The nation’s capital may soon allow residents to purchase birth control without a prescription, reports The Washington Post.

Washington, D.C., Council Member David Catania introduced a bill on Tuesday that would permit women to receive over-the-counter oral contraceptives. The bill, called the Pharmacy Access Amendment Act, would give the city’s Board of Pharmacy and Board of Medicine authorization to set up guidelines for consumers to pick up hormonal birth control without going to the doctor’s office.

Catania, chairman of the council’s Committee on Health, told the Post that the proposed regulation would “expand access to contraception and to conserve valuable resources.” He said many D.C. women are underserved by health care providers, and are forced to wait weeks or even months for a doctor’s appointment. If passed, “the legislation would allow greater heath care option for thousands of women who might otherwise be forced to go without.”

Although Catania has gained the support of Planned Parenthood and various lawmakers, issues of quality and approval still remain. The bill would need to gain approval from the FDA, which maintains that the use of birth control can only occur under the guidance of a physician since the drug can produce dangerous side effects. The FDA’s stance on the bill is unclear; a spokeswoman told the Post the issue falls under a “gray area.”

A similar program was tested for several years in Oregon. Consumers consulted with a doctor or physician over the phone and received birth control prescriptions by applying online. That program was discontinued last year.

Although the District has been known for its liberal stance on birth control in the past, it is unclear whether lawmakers will approve such a radical plan.

“This is not going to be the Wild West,” Catina insisted. “Pharmacists are extraordinarily overeducated for what they do on a day-in and day-out basis. There is a lot of capacity for a pharmacist to do more than they do.”