January 22, 2007


Posted in Medicine, News, Reproduction at 8:22 pm by The Lizard Queen

I have a hypothetical story for you. Let’s say I have a cold. The new Sudafed formula (Sudafed PE) does nothing for me, so I have to ask the pharmacist to give me some of the original-formula Sudafed, which is still technically over-the-counter but is kept behind the counter because it contains pseudoephedrine, which can be used in the manufacture of methamphetamines. The pharmacist, however, refuses to give it to me, stating that he has a moral objection to meth labs. However, there is no legal reason why I shouldn’t be given the Sudafed, so it seems to me that this would be a cut-and-dried case; the pharmacist would be taken to task for refusing to dispense the medication.

I wonder, then, how the subject gets blurry when it comes to Plan B. Yesterday I found this article through the Mother Jones blog. Here’s what happened to a young woman in Ohio:

Tashina Byrd, 23, of Springfield, said the pharmacist “shook his head and laughed” when a pharmacy attendant asked this month about giving the woman and her boyfriend Plan B. The hormone pills can help prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

The attendant told Byrd and her boyfriend, Brian O’Neill, 37, of Columbus, that the store stocked Plan B but nobody would give it to them, the couple told The Columbus Dispatch.

As the article points out later, Wal-Mart corporate policy states that “any Wal-Mart worker who does not feel comfortable dispensing a product can refer customers to another pharmacist, pharmacy worker or sales associate.” Of course, that’s clearly not what was done here. And it gets even better:

Brent Beams, the pharmacist, told The Dispatch that he denied the couple’s request for the contraceptive pills because “I do not believe in ending life, and life begins at conception.”

After the pharmacist turned them down, O’Neill and Byrd asked for a store manager who “came over and said, ‘The pharmacist has the law on his side,’ ” O’Neill said.

I respect that the manager supported his employee. However, he should have known that the pharmacist didn’t even have Wal-Mart corporate policy behind him. And the pharmacist should certainly have known that Plan B is not abortion. Plan B is an over-the-counter drug; as long as a person can prove she (or he–I personally think Plan B would be a hot Valentine’s Day gift–but I digress) is over 18, then there should be no question as to whether or not she should be given Plan B. The executive director of the Ohio Pharmacists Association, Ernie Boyd, was quoted in the article as saying that “[t]he association would fight any sweeping legislative proposal to require pharmacists to fill prescriptions no matter what because it would hurt their ability to catch mistakes and prevent possible adverse drug interactions.” I don’t think anyone would make the “no matter what” argument, and I lose respect for Boyd for suggesting that’s the case. I do believe, however, that if a pharmacist is refusing to dispense any medications, over-the-counter or prescription, for moral reasons, then he or she should find another career path. Plain and simple.



  1. Cara said,

    When did Plan B become available over the counter? Last I knew you still needed a prescription. But, I don’t pay too much attention, sooo, just curious really.

  2. As long as you’re over 18, you can get it over the counter (17 and younger and you need a prescription). The change was made sometime last fall, I think; I’m trying to find an exact date but not having much luck…

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