Rep. Michael D'Agostino outlining a bill in 2022. CT-N

A wide-ranging bill that permits the sale of non-prescription drugs in vending machines, including emergency contraception, and allows pharmacists to prescribe hormonal birth control passed the House Wednesday with broad support.

The measure would enable greater access to over-the-counter medications by making them available in special temperature-controlled vending machines throughout the state. Drug packages in the machines cannot exceed a five-day supply, and machines must be registered with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection.

“I don’t want to be accused of hiding the ball … there is an emergency contraceptive [allowed],” said Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden. “One type that is approved as a non-prescription drug that, just like aspirin, someone can walk in right now today to a pharmacy, pull that emergency contraceptive out, buy it at a kiosk and walk out, no age restrictions. So just like these other … non-prescription drugs, [which] you can buy now at an automated kiosk, you could buy them in these vending machines.”

The medication in question is commonly known as Plan B One-Step, or the morning after pill, he said.

The proposal also lets pharmacists prescribe hormonal contraception. Pharmacists who are morally or ethically opposed to prescribing birth control must provide patients who request it with a list of the nearest pharmacies that may prescribe the drug.

Additionally, the bill requires pharmacists to give patients a list of pharmacies that dispense abortion pills if their own location does not have a supply on hand or if the pharmacist objects to providing it for moral or ethical reasons.

“In this state and even across the country, we can see there are areas where we don’t have access to health care for women. And having access to health care be a barrier to get oral contraception for women is a non-starter,” said Rep. Tracy Marra, R-Darien. “So I’m really happy to see that allowing pharmacists to prescribe oral contraception is in this bill.”

The measure also allows providers to certify a patient’s use of medical marijuana via a telehealth appointment and to offer follow-up care through telehealth, and it permits pharmacists to work with law enforcement officials, school board members, community health organizations and others to expand access to opioid antagonists such as Narcan by making them available in vending machines and needle exchange machines.

“I know a lot of members here have been concerned about what can we do to get Narcan, the opioid antagonist that treats opioid overdose, into the hands of the people who treat those suffering from opioid use disorder — first responders, schools, police departments, health care agencies,” D’Agostino said. “So there’s a provision in this bill that’ll allow pharmacists to partner with those types of agencies to make sure that Narcan is available. And the pharmacists have trained the people at those agencies on how to administer Narcan immediately. The pharmacist doesn’t have to be there to administer the Narcan.”

The proposal is the second significant bill greenlighted by the House recently dealing with reproductive rights. A measure passed last week by the chamber offers additional protections to abortion providers who face sanctions in other states for performing abortions.

The contraception bill cleared the House Wednesday by a vote of 125 to 21. It now heads to the Senate for final passage.

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Jenna CarlessoHealth Reporter

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.