Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Pharmacists Refusing to Fill Prescriptions: Moral Intervention or Religious Expression?

This blog has gone unpopulated since I created it while I got my ducks in a row (very similar to the unending process of the proverbial herding of cats). But finally an article sparked me in a way that forced me beyond inertia.

The Washington Post recently reported that some pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for drugs which they have moral issues with, such as birth control pills. (See the Washington Post article itself.)

Apparently, there are growing number of states which have passed laws allowing pharmacist intervention, while others are passing laws preventing it.

Some pharmacists have even refused to transfer prescriptions they refuse to fill themselves to another pharmacy. Some drug stores require a pharmacist to alert a manager so that someone else can fill the prescription without disrupting service. But in the case of the morning after pill, which must be taken within 72 hours of conception, some delaying pharmacists have prevented women from getting taking the medication within the prescribed window.

While women's and reproductive rights groups have started tackling this issue, the trend raises other questions. Can pharmacists who believe that HIV and AIDS are God's revenge on homosexuals refuse to fill appropriate prescriptions? Will people with gender identity issues be denied hormone treatments? What about women who are "barren" - will they be denied fertility drugs?

I've said this blog will not be ranty, but I think the asking of piercing questions is important. In a day of short-staffed pharmacies, particularly during late night shifts, frequently only one pharmacist is on duty. And some small towns only have one pharmacy.

So I raise the issue to put it on your radar screen and let you form your own conclusions about both whether pharmacists should be allowed to opt out of filling prescriptions and whether they should be restricted to shifts where a backup plan is provided.