PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon led the way in allowing pharmacist-prescribed birth contol, but a new article in the Journal of the American Medical Association said there is still more to be done.

The first-of-its-kind law took effect Jan. 1, months after Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill. California soon followed suit though their law has not yet taken effect.

“…instead of providing over-the-counter, easily accessible birth control for women, the new laws shift the burden of prescribing onto the pharmacy. … evidence supports policy efforts that go further in removing barriers and restrictions on contraceptive access.”  — JAMA article

Women who are at least 18 can go to an Oregon pharmacy, fill out a special health questionnaire and, if everything looks good, will get a prescription from the pharmacist.

Women under 18 will need a doctor’s prescription before they can get pharmacist-provided birth control, though that regulation will go away in a few years under the law.

There are several benefits to women with this law, the JAMA article states, including health benefits and lower costs across the board.

OHSU’s Dr. Maria Isabel Rodriguez, who helped implement the law, said this is “an important first step in improving access to contraception for Oregonian women.”

She agrees with the JAMA article co-authored by her colleage Dr. Jonathan Snowden.

“There is always work to be done, and prevention of unintended pregnancy is essential for both public health, as well as women’s individual health,” Rodriguez said. “We know half of all births in Oregon continue to be unintended pregnancies.”

Dr. Maria Isabel Rodgriguez at OHSU, March 28, 2016 (KOIN)

Right now Oregon women can only get 2 types of hormonal contraception from their pharmacist — pills and patches. Other birth control methods, such as IUDs or implants still need a doctor’s prescription.

“It would be great to have a vaginal ring offered as an option and even progesterone injectible,” Rodriguez said. “Those are both safe and very popular forms of contraception.”

She’d also like to see the bill’s age restrictions lessened “so younger women are able to access it just the same as women over the age of 18.”

OHSU is leading efforts to research the safety and effectiveness of the new law.

“Once we’ve demonstrated that it’s not only a valuable option for women and something pharmacists are comfortable doing,” she said, “I think we could look towards expanding it.”

Contraceptive methods (Courtesy photo: OHSU)