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pharmacists play doctor
aided and abetted by state legislatures
by ellen marsh

I just read a news story about pharmacists who are refusing on “moral grounds” to fill or refill prescriptions for birth control pills. Apparently, some states have actually passed laws to allow them to do so. Most states with such laws, however, do require that the pharmacist refer the patient to another pharmacist who is willing to fill such prescriptions.

Apparently, these state laws were passed in response to approval of the “morning after” pill by the FDA. Now pharmacists are using the laws to protect them when they decide not to provide birth control to women. And, in a few cases they've even refused to return the prescription and refer the patient to another pharmacist.

As I read about this growing trend, I had to wonder about pharmacists refusing to dispense other medications. Is the next step for a pharmacist to refuse to dispense Viagra, or similar drugs, on the grounds that the patient is too old to procreate and the drug is being used to enhance sexual performance and pleasure? I can also envision a case where a pharmacist would refuse to fill a prescription for narcotic pain killers on the grounds that the patient might become drug addicted or might use the pills for suicide. This could leave terminal cancer patients and other people with chronic pain in misery.

Note that a recent Wisconsin law specifically allows a pharmacist to opt out of prescribing a drug that might be used for suicide. At sufficiently large doses, simple remedies such as aspirin and Tylenol can become lethal. Will zealous pharmacists remove these "dangerous" OTC remedies from their shelves?

While social conservatives claim to want less obtrusive government, ironically this trend, supported by those same conservatives, allows pharmacists (and legislators) to invade an individual’s personal choices and to interfere with a doctor’s medical decisions.

It is unsettling to imagine state legislators and individual pharmacists second-guessing decisions that can be best made by a patient and his or her physician.


Ellen's recreational writing relieves the stress of working at an insane biotech company. She has too to do (and re-do) every week, because of the knee-jerk, fire-fighting mentality of the management team.

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stacy smith
11.9.04 @ 8:09p

Great! The people at CVS are going to start giving me lectures because I like my Tylenol with Codiene when I'm sick.

Besides that, I find this whole thing rather interesting seeing how everybody is on "happy pills" or something like it for one thing or another. Depression, ADD, ADHA, Bi-Polar and so the list goes on.

Maybe instead of the pharmacies giving lectures on the morals of medication, they should try looking into the morals of some of these doctors that much have tendonititis from all the scripts they push out the door on a daily basis.

That would be too easy/logical I suppose. Keep kids off drugs, but the legal ones are okay. After all, what's a day without the shelter of a Mother's little helper...

robert melos
11.10.04 @ 12:55a

I picked up a 'script for my mother the other day, and the pharmacist said to me, "Thank God for Xanax."

I just smiled knowingly.

It's like the Sominex in the peanut butter.

Like you parents with 10 year-olds bouncing off the walls have never thought of that?

david damsker
11.10.04 @ 8:00a

Maybe we should get rid of doctors and let the pharmacists see the patients instead. They seem to want to make the medical decisions anyway.

tracey kelley
11.10.04 @ 10:09a

We're fortunate because a couple of the pharmacists we know are very helpful explaining basic things for OTC care, and do not hesitate to tell use to call the doctor.

They also aren't afraid of alternative methods, which I appreciate. I don't vitamins and supplements are a bad thing if used with a preventative approach.

But refusing to fill 'scripts on moral grounds? Smacks of illegal practice and discrimination to me, and that's not a healthy medical philosophy.

ellen marsh
11.10.04 @ 11:34a

Sadly, some states hae made these practices quite legal, citing "ethical grounds." This certainly does not fit my definition of ethical behavior. Very scary!

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