Women in Saskatchewan now have the option to head to their local pharmacy instead of their doctor’s office to get birth control.
Pharmacists have been authorized to write up both new prescriptions and refills for oral contraceptives and urinary tract infection medication.
Myla Wollbaum, director of professional practice at the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan, said it doesn’t mean women shouldn’t consult with their family doctor, it just makes overall access faster and easier — especially in rural areas.
“There are many communities that have a pharmacy, but they don’t necessarily have immediate or direct access to a physician all the time — or even at all,” she said.
According to Wollbaum, pharmacists received their prescribing rights to provide refills on medication in 2011. Since then, they’ve been authorized to prescribe medication for about 20 minor ailments including toe fungus, eye infections and muscle sprains.
In the next six months, she added pharmacists will be able to prescribe medication related to smoking cessation, erectile dysfunction and obesity.
Planned Parenthood pleased with greater access
Planned Parenthood is pleased pharmacists are now authorized to prescribe birth control.
“It will hopefully provide greater access and, in this small province, having greater access is what we are really interested in,” said Planned Parenthood Regina executive director Shelley Svedahl.
“Hopefully they will go and get the help that they need, and we will reduce negative outcomes and prevent unplanned pregnancies.”
Svedahl said the next step is increasing women’s access to intrauterine devices (IUDs) — a T-shaped birth control device that’s inserted into a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. Since it’s typically $80 and lasts 10 years, she added IUDs are a cheaper and more long-term alternative to oral contraception.
“They have the greatest efficiency, and yet the number of care providers in the city of Regina that provide IUDs are limited,” Svedahl noted.
In the last few weeks, Svedahl said Planned Parenthood has been in talks with the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Pharmacy and Nutrition to see how they can best work together moving forward.
“If a pharmacist is recommending an IUD as the best option, then we’ll have the rapid access that you can call us and we can get you in within seven days,” she explained, adding Planned Parenthood Regina was recognized as a Rapid Access IUD Centre of Excellence last July.
Over the last few years, Svedahl said the demand for IUDs at Planned Parenthood has increased significantly — specifically when it comes to those in rural Saskatchewan who normally have longer wait times getting in to see their family doctor.
— With files from David Kirton