DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowans may soon be able to get birth control without a prescription. A bill currently working its way through the state legislature would allow pharmacists to distribute more medications, including certain types of contraception and EpiPens, without a prescription.
The bill, which has received broad bipartisan support, passed the Iowa Senate on March 15 by a 45-3 margin. It passed out of the House Health and Human Services Committee by a 19-2 margin on March 29.
It would allow pharmacists to distribute self-administered hormonal contraceptives including oral contraceptives, the patch, or vaginal ring for up to 15 months to a patient before they’d have to get a prescription. The pharmacist can give them an initial three-month supply and then an additional 12 months.
“What it does is it allows pharmacists to practice at the top of their licenses and be able to provide more care and more services to women across the State of Iowa. And I think allowing them to prescribe and dispense birth control bills really increases health care here in the State of Iowa,” said Iowa State Representative John Forbes, (D), District 44 from Urbandale.
The bill would also allow pharmacists to refill epinephrine auto-injectors, or EpiPens, without a prescription.
The patient must be over 18 to get either contraceptives or the EpiPen refill without a prescription.
Lawmakers feel the bill is necessary especially as the state faces critical health care shortages.
“It can be the three-to-six months before they can see a doctor to have a conversation. And if they were allowed to, you know, go to a pharmacist to start this conversation without that wait time, then they could, you know, have access to this medication, you know, in a quicker time period,” said Iowa State Representative Devon Wood, (R), District 17 from New Market.
Before passing the bill out of the House committee, lawmakers did add an amendment requiring pharmacists to undergo extensive training before they could start distributing these medications. The full House still has to agree to the amendment for it to be added to the bill.
Forbes, who’s a pharmacist in addition to being a state representative, said he expects many of his colleagues to take advantage of the bill if it becomes law and expand their scope of pharmacy practice.