The People's Pharmacy
Delay sought in ruling on dispensing Plan B
Plans by the state's Board of Pharmacy to amend controversial rules requiring pharmacies to fill legal prescriptions such as the "Plan B" emergency contraceptive have sparked questions and outrage among those who support unfettered access to that drug.
Seattle Times health reporter
Plans by the state's Board of Pharmacy to amend controversial rules requiring pharmacies to dispense legally prescribed medications have sparked questions and outrage among those who support unfettered access to emergency contraceptives.
The board wants to change the rules so that pharmacies with "conscientious objections" to the "Plan B" emergency contraceptive or other medication could refuse to stock or dispense the drug, and pass the customer to another pharmacy to fill the prescription.
That concerns Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is committed to "maintaining access for all individuals for legally prescribed medication" and will voice her opinion to the pharmacy board, said Viet Shelton, her spokesman.
The state's 2007 rules, which allow individual pharmacists to refuse to dispense a legally prescribed medication only if another pharmacist is available at that store to fill the prescription, are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit by two pharmacists and a pharmacy owner, who contend the rules violate their constitutional rights to free exercise of religion.
Wednesday, both sides in that lawsuit asked Judge Ronald Leighton of the U.S. District Court in Tacoma to postpone the trial until the pharmacy board changes the rules, which could take eight months or more.
The pharmacy board voted last week to open up the rules to change. Instead of requiring a pharmacy to fill a prescription for a drug such as the time-sensitive Plan B contraceptive, the board wants to give it the option of making a "facilitated referral." That means the pharmacy would actively help the customer find the drug elsewhere, said Department of Health spokesman Donn Moyer.
Joyce Roper, senior assistant attorney general, said, "the board is simply saying, 'You need to help the patient get the medicine.' "
The board never intended to say that pharmacies must stock every drug, she said, or to write rules that differentiate between a business reason and a religious reason for a pharmacy not stocking a particular drug.
Supporters of the current rules say they object to the pharmacy board's attempts to change them.
"We are completely baffled as to why they are doing this," said Elaine Rose, CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes Washington. "They want to go back to 'refuse and refer,' which is what they had before."
Leighton is expected to rule early next week on the request to postpone the trial, now set for July 26.
Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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