The House of Representatives has passed legislation introduced by Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control.

The bill (2019-H 5549) would authorize a pharmacist to prescribe and dispense hormonal contraceptive patches and self-administered oral hormonal contraceptives, provided that the pharmacist has completed a training program approved by the state board of pharmacy.

“Taking time off work, finding transportation to a clinic and paying for a doctor’s visit is a lot of work to get birth control,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “Pharmacist-prescribed birth control would improve the quality of life for so many women, which is an important goal of our evolving health care system.”

Rhode Island would join 12 other states that have existing laws allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control.

“Pharmacists are highly underutilized health care professionals,” said Representative Wilkinson. “Laws that keep developing and whose policies are incorporated into practice will allow the profession to expand and better serve patients. Prescribing birth control is a major step in pharmacists’ ability to take some of the workload off physicians, use their knowledge to the fullest, and enhance the patient’s health care experience.”

The legislation would limit prescriptions to those patients who are at least 18 years of age, unless the patient has evidence of a previous prescription from a primary care practitioner or women’s health care practitioner.

The pharmacist would also be required to provide a self-screening risk assessment tool that the patient must use prior to the pharmacist’s prescribing the birth control.

“Some states have found a decrease in abortion rates following enactment of this law,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, research shows that access to effective birth control leads to lower abortion rates, likely by helping to prevent unintended pregnancies.”

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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