Last March, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed Senate Bill 184, allowing pharmacists to re-prescribe daily, hormonal birth control to patients 18 years and older who have obtained a two-year standing prescription from their physician.
The measure passed unanimously by the Utah Legislature and is intended to make contraceptive more accessible and affordable for women by reducing the number of doctor visits required to renew a prescription. Nearly a year later, it seems many are still unaware of the new law.
Peri Brimley, a full-time Salt Lake Community College student working on her general degree, says she didn’t know about the bill or that it had passed.
“When I was 15, I was on the pill to control painful periods,” she explains. “Every single month, I had to call my doctor, and he would then call the pharmacy to verify my prescription. Every single month. It was ridiculous. So, this bill sounds like a great idea.”
Victoria Midgley, a full-time student in SLCC’s radiologic technology program, says she was previously only vaguely aware of the new law.
“I feel like there are pros and cons to it,” Midgley says.
She explains that the costs of attending school, paying for housing and other necessary bills can be a financial burden. It is important for women, Midgley says, to “have the resources to get birth control and protect [themselves] in the process.”
Still, Midgley believes women shouldn’t bypass regular doctor visits.
“It is good for women to go in and see a doctor every once in a while to check and make sure that things are going well,” she says. “It also helps with ensuring that there’s nothing missed in a diagnosis.”
According to the Utah Board of Pharmacy Newsletter, a stipulation of the new law requires pharmacists ensure patients have completed a self-screening risk assessment and receive written information regarding the importance of seeing a physician.
In addition, pharmacists will provide patients with a description of the birth control or a basis for choosing to not dispense, in addition to information on the effectiveness of long-acting birth control, like an Intrauterine Device, or IUD.
Terri Mehlhoff, clinic manager and one of three nurse practitioners at SLCC’s Center for Health and Counseling, says her staff prescribes oral contraceptives almost daily. Her concern regarding the new law is that they are only allowed to treat students currently enrolled, and a two-year prescription may exceed that time.
“If students drop out or graduate, they are no longer eligible for services from our clinic. So, I try to write prescriptions only for that time frame,” Mehlhoff says.