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Birth control available at Colorado pharmacies without visiting a doctor

DENVER -- Safeway is one of the first major chains in Colorado to begin offering birth control pills to women at its pharmacies without visiting a doctor.

A new state law allowing pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives went into effect earlier in 2017.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, nearly half of all pregnancies statewide are unplanned. The increased access to birth control might help reduce that statistic.

Many pharmacies are still in the beginning stages of rolling out the program. As of Tuesday, all Albertson’s-Safeway pharmacies in Colorado are equipped to offer pills or patches to women older than 18 years old.

“We felt it was important to be one of the first because we do see a need and we wanted to make sure that awareness was out there for women to be able to use this service,” said Nikki Price, director of pharmacies for Albertson’s-Safeway Pharmacies.

Pharmacists must undergo special training to learn the pharmacology, screening procedures and determination of what medications would be best for each patient.

According to Price, the service is especially useful for women new to Colorado.

“There are so many people moving into the state on a regular basis that a lot of times, you do have a gap in terms of finding a new physician and you may run out of your current birth control,” she said.

The new law allows women to walk into a participating pharmacy, have a consultation with a pharmacist and leave with prescription contraception. At Safeway, the consultation costs $45.

Patients will fill out a form that includes medical history, undergo a pregnancy screening, a blood pressure test and discuss birth control options with the pharmacist.

“From the time that you walk into our store to the time that you’re actually paying for it and leaving is probably 20 to 25 minutes,” Price said.

If pharmacists feel further medical advice is required, he or she can refer the patient to a physician before prescribing the medication.