Just about every woman who's ever been on the Pill knows what a nuisance it can be to keep your supply and prescriptions up to date. Considering what it costs to see a GP these days, it can be an expensive exercise to just walk in, take a blood pressure test, ask for a refill, and walk out. 

But it looks like things are about to change, for women in the US state of Oregon, at least, because last week a new law was passed, stipulating that from 2016 onwards, it will be legal for oral hormonal contraceptive pills to be purchased over the counter without a prescription from a doctor. 

The law comes three years after being passed in California, and Oregon is just the second state in the US to go ahead with the change. As April Dembosky reported for NPR back in 2013, the law was originally passed in California amid growing concerns about doctor shortages. "As more baby boomers hit age 65, and millions of people get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, there aren't enough primary care doctors to go around," she said.

And why not use the pharmacists, who have been trained for many years in how to provide safe and effective healthcare to the public? "The pharmacist is really an untapped resource," Lisa Kroon, Chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of California, told Dembosky. "We are graduating students who are ready for this, but the laws just haven't kept up with what the pharmacist training already is."

According to the new law in Oregon, it won't be as simple as grabbing some vitamins, a lip balm, and a year's supply of contraceptives though, as Diane Kelly reports for Gizmodo. "Pharmacists will be allowed to dispense them to any woman over the age of 18, as long as they go over a questionnaire to make sure they don't suffer from health problems that prevent the safe use of hormonal contraception," she says. The women will need to have been to a GP for a check-up within the last three years to be eligible, but will be able to access the Pill regardless of whether she has evidence of a previous prescription.

Women under the age of 18 who need contraceptives haven't been forgotten under the new scheme though, they will need to provide proof to the pharmacist that they have been previously approved for a prescription by a GP. By 2020, this caveat will no longer apply, and anyone will be able to access over-the-counter contraceptives, so long as they submit to the pharmacist's health check.

Hopefully we'll start to see similar laws passed in other US states and around the world. Many women, such as working mums, find it difficult to get to a doctor within business hours - which often involves waiting 20 minutes or so for their appointment - so having access to an after-hours pharmacy would make all the difference.