January 30, 2023

New Jersey Pharmacies Will Soon Be Able to Sell Birth Control Without a Prescription

The state of New Jersey recently passed a law that will allow pharmacists to provide self-administered hormonal contraceptives to patients without a prescription. The law, which was signed by Governor Philip Murphy on January 13, 2023, will enable individuals in New Jersey to purchase birth control pills and other self-administered hormonal female contraceptives, such as transdermal patches, vaginal rings and diaphragms, directly from a pharmacy, without a prescription. Notably, there is no residency requirement under the law, meaning that out-of-state residents will also have access to these birth control options at New Jersey pharmacies. The law is expected to take effect on or around May 1.

Under the new law, New Jersey pharmacists will have the authority to furnish self-administered hormonal contraceptives pursuant to a standing order jointly developed and issued by the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy (Board of Pharmacy) and the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners (Board of Medical Examiners). As a condition of furnishing contraceptives to patients, New Jersey pharmacists will be required to complete a training program jointly approved by the Board of Pharmacy and the Board of Medical Examiners. Before receiving a self-administered hormonal contraceptive from a pharmacist, patients will also be subject to certain requirements. Specifically, the law requires patients must use a self-screening tool to identify risk factors for the use of hormonal contraceptives. The tool was designed using the United States Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and will help pharmacists determine whether a patient is eligible for a hormonal conceptive option. Pharmacists are also required to offer patient counseling regarding other forms of contraception that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. If a patient accepts the offer for counseling, a pharmacist must provide “specific and appropriate information” about other forms of contraception that are guided by the results of the patient’s self-screening tool. For example, if a patient accepts a pharmacist’s offer for counseling and the screening tool indicates that the patient is not a candidate for hormonal contraception under the new law, the pharmacist would be required to provide counseling about other types of non-hormonal contraceptive options. Finally, the law also requires that pharmacists refer all patients seeking contraception to their primary care provider or an appropriate and nearby medical clinic, regardless of whether the contraceptive is ultimately furnished to the patient or if a pharmacist determines that a hormonal contraceptive is not appropriate.

There are numerous types of self-administered hormonal contraceptives currently available pursuant to a prescription, and the law requires the Board of Pharmacy and Board of Medical Examiners to identify which specific self-administered hormonal contraceptives a pharmacist will be authorized to furnish to patients pursuant to the standing order. Additionally, the law requires the Commissioner of Health for New Jersey to establish a public awareness campaign to inform the general public of the ability to obtain self-administered hormonal contraceptives from a pharmacy without a prescription. The Board of Pharmacy and the Board of Medical Examiners will have joint authorization to ensure compliance with the provisions of the new law, and each board will be charged with enforcing procedures and protocols.

This legislation was first introduced in 2015 but failed to pass a number of times before Governor Murphy eventually signed it into law earlier this month. The new law aims to improve access to contraception and puts New Jersey among the approximately 20 other states that allow patients to purchase hormonal contraception without a prescription. Importantly, individuals in New Jersey will still be able to purchase birth control via a prescription from their health care provider and will still be able to visit a health care provider for access to other forms of contraception not covered by the new law, such as implants or intrauterine devices.

The implementing procedures and protocols required by the law have not been released or finalized, including the comprehensive list of which self-administered hormonal contraceptives pharmacists will be authorized to provide to patients. This law continues the trend of expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists and will place additional responsibility on pharmacists in the retail setting. In addition to filling prescriptions, counseling patients and administering vaccines, New Jersey pharmacists will now play a role in providing access to hormonal contraception in the state.

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