An Evaluation of the Implementation of Pharmacist-Prescribed Hormonal Contraceptives in California

Obstet Gynecol. 2018 May;131(5):850-855. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000002572.


Objective: To evaluate the implementation of pharmacist-prescribed hormonal contraceptives in California after a recent expansion of pharmacists' scope of practice.

Methods: A probability sample of 480 licensed California retail pharmacies (stratified by nonrural or rural location and independent or chain status) was included in a cross-sectional "secret shopper" telephone survey assessing the availability of pharmacist-prescribed hormonal contraceptives and service details. Survey data were analyzed using weighted descriptive statistics, CIs, and Wald tests.

Results: Findings included data from 457 pharmacies (response rate 95.2%). Only 5.1% of pharmacies reported providing pharmacist-prescribed hormonal contraceptives (95% CI 2.9-7.2%). This proportion did not differ significantly between rural and nonrural pharmacies (P=.83) nor between independent and chain pharmacies (P=.40). Five of the 22 pharmacies that were providing pharmacist-prescribed hormonal contraceptives informed secret shoppers that all allowed hormonal methods were available; most of these pharmacies (77.3%) did proactively describe that a health history was required before receiving medications. Only half of pharmacies providing pharmacist-prescribed hormonal contraceptives would do so for minors although this was allowed by law.

Conclusion: In the first year after statewide protocol implementation, only a small proportion of retail pharmacies across California has begun offering hormonal contraception services. In the absence of additional supportive legislation regarding reimbursement for pharmacist services, increases in scope of practice regulations to build a larger network of contraceptive providers may not be effective in increasing access to birth control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • California / epidemiology
  • Community Pharmacy Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Contraception / methods
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Pharmacy / methods
  • Pharmacy / statistics & numerical data


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal