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N.H. Lawmakers Recommend Pharmacists Prescribe Birth Control

New Hampshire could become one of just a few states that allows birth control pills to be prescribed by pharmacists.

A commission appointed by the state legislature voted unanimously last week to endorse the idea.

Morning Edition Host spoke with State Senator Donna Soucy, who is a member on the commission, about the recommendation.

(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)

Pharmacists in California, Oregon and Washington State are already able to prescribe contraceptives. How would this benefit women living here in New Hampshire?

Well the charge of the commission was to provide greater access to various forms of hormonal contraception. And we looked at legislation in those other states to try to find a unique New Hampshire solution to the problem and provide greater access.

So we should be clear that this would only be for a self-administered birth control forms like pills, and patches and rings. Pharmacists would not be able to prescribe other forms of birth control. Is that true?

That is true. They would not prescribe implants or even be able to provide shots at this point.

So what kinds of barriers are women in New Hampshire facing in getting prescription for hormonal contraceptives right now?

There are always access issues, access to physicians and prescriptions, limited hours that people are serviced, and also cost is often an issue. 

And I imagine you know when you're talking about people who maybe don't have transportation or possibly living in rural areas that makes it all the harder.


The commission also endorsed a plan of yours to submit legislation that would require insurance plans cover a year's supply of hormonal contraception, which the patient would be able to acquire in a single pharmacy visit, as I understand it. How would that improve women's access to birth control?

Well, once again it's a matter of convenience and dispensing, and also a reduction in cost, because you're only filling one prescription over a year as opposed to having to return to a pharmacy month after month for the prescription. So it would both facilitate convenience, and as I said, cost as well.

Are there other states that have that provision?

There are some other states looking at that, and I believe there are a couple that have already adopted it.

And have you any pushback to the idea at all?

No. As a matter of fact, in the process of serving on the commission we were looking at the issue and developed the 12-month idea, and asked the commission, which included not only legislators, but doctors, pharmacists, and other professionals and Health and Human Services Department employees. And they also endorsed that concept, as well as an additional companion piece of legislation.

I want to ask you what doctors have said to you as you’ve been going through this process. How do doctors feel about this?

Actually the doctors who served on the commission worked strongly helpful and extremely supportive of the concept. They believe that the products are very safe, and eventually believe that the Food and Drug Administration will probably approve over-the-counter use for some of these products. But until then, the system that we have established, hopefully through legislation when it passes, will allow for a standing order and then a model protocol. The same process would be followed across the board, and everyone would be educated to provide these prescriptions and devices directly to patients right at the pharmacy.

And what are you hearing from fellow legislators about this?

It's actually an idea that has had a lot of support in the past. There have been pieces of legislation. There were technical issues with them regarding insurance coverage, because one of the concerns, of course, is always ensuring that there is proper coverage, and that that would continue if we change the medium that the products are dispensed. So, I think there is quite a bit of support. Certainly it was a bipartisan group of legislators. And as I said, with all of the professionals around the table, we had unanimous endorsement of this legislation. So I think it should meet with a great deal of support moving forward.

And so what comes next what where does the idea go from here?

So the idea has been written up as a piece of legislation. It will begin in the House this January, and will move its way through the legislature both the House and Senate, and hopefully land on the governor's desk very soon.  

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR.
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