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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 17, 2004

Pharmacies can provide 'morning after' pills

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Health Writer

Pharmacists in Hawai'i will now be able to dispense emergency contraception drugs — commonly known as "morning-after pills" — because Gov. Linda Lingle has given final approval to state rules to run the program.

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs needed to create the rules after the state Legislature last year passed a law to allow pharmacists to give out emergency contraception without a prescription.

Such pills have been available since 1998 through doctors' offices.

Under the law, pharmacists who have received appropriate training and who are working with a physician can begin dispensing contraception oral drug therapy.

The state's Board of Pharmacy adopted the rules after a public hearing and after consulting with the state's medical community.

Advocates say the pills can prove valuable to patients who are opposed to abortion but open to pregnancy prevention. By allowing pharmacists to dispense the drugs, the coverage expands to evenings and weekends.

Critics worry that easy access to such drugs might encourage teens and others to have unprotected sex. Some doctors worry patients will skip gynecologist visits if they don't need to see a doctor for contraceptives.

In May, the state Department of Health's family planning program estimated that 56 percent of Hawai'i's pregnancies were unplanned, based on a 2001 survey. Although unplanned pregnancies aren't necessarily unwanted, officials said statistics indicate demand for the pills.

The pills are most effective when taken within the first 24 hours of unprotected sex, but can be taken up to five days later.