UW News

February 23, 2004

UW feasibility study looks at direct access to birth control for women visiting at eight Bartell and Fred Meyer pharmacies

The University of Washington School of Pharmacy and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology are conducting a study to determine the feasibility of screening and prescribing birth control medication to women in pharmacies, rather than in visits to a doctor or clinic. As a test of the new protocol, the pharmacists at eight Bartell Drug Stores and Fred Meyer stores in King and Pierce counties will identify women who are at risk of unintended pregnancy. They will offer to evaluate the study participants for their suitability to safely use the traditional oral contraceptives, contraceptive patches or contraceptive vaginal ring already available at all pharmacies with prescriptions.

Interested women will select the most apparently suitable contraceptive methods for their personal use by filling out medical and contraceptive history questionnaires. Then pharmacists will complete the screening process and prescribe hormonal contraceptives according to the protocol guidelines set up under the study. Training was provided to participating pharmacists by School of Pharmacy project investigators.

Pharmacists will encourage women to follow up by visiting a primary-care practitioner or family planning clinic for cervical exams and infection screenings. Pharmacists will have the authority to provide an initial three-month prescription, followed by a nine-month prescription if blood pressure is normal at the time of a return visit to the pharmacy at the end of the first three months.

To participate, women must be between 18 and 45 years old, weigh under 200 pounds, wish to use effective birth control, be willing to participate in the study for a year and be able to pay for the birth control method and the approximately $50 it will cost for the consultation with the pharmacist. Many health insurance programs will pay for birth control and some will pay the cost of the consultation. Study participants will receive phone calls four times during the year to discuss their experience with health care visits and birth control methods. The 300 participants will receive $20 from the School of Pharmacy researchers for each completed interview, even if they are not using birth control. Participation is voluntary and participants may withdraw at any time.

A complete list of participating pharmacies can be found at http://www.DirectAccessStudy.info.

For more details, call 206-616-7486.

The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health through the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and approved by the Washington State Board of Pharmacy.