- Associated Press - Sunday, June 11, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Pharmacy Board has adopted a regulation allowing pharmacists for the first time to write prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives, meaning a woman won’t need to visit a physician in most cases to obtain birth control.

The move is in response to the shortage of primary-care doctors, gynecologists and obstetricians in the state, especially in rural areas, officials said.

In some parts of the state, patients face three- to six-month wait times for primary care and even longer for specialty care, said Denicia Cadena, policy director at Albuquerque youth organization Young Women United.

That has led to higher rates of unintended pregnancies, New Mexico Pharmacists Association Executive Director Dale Tinker said.

Pharmacists prescribing birth control will need to assess patients’ needs and take their blood pressure. No other physical exams will be required, according to the new rules.

Women who have complex health issues will still need to see a doctor for contraceptive pills, Tinker said.

He expects some pharmacist-written birth control prescriptions may be covered by health insurance, depending on the policy.

Pharmacists can sign up for a training program developed by doctors and nurses. Dr. Lauren Thaxton, who helped create the program, said several studies show that “pharmacist provision of contraception is patient-centered, safe and effective.”

Because pharmacists are not required to participate in the nine-hour training, officials are not sure how many will attend.

Other states that allow pharmacists to prescribe oral contraceptives include California, Colorado and Oregon.

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