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When Pharmacists Say "No"

When Pharmacists Say "No"

John Rossheim / Monster Senior Contributing Writer

Walgreens is one employer trying to steer such a middle course. The national drugstore chain said in a company statement that if one of its pharmacists refuses to fill a prescription, the order will be filled by another Walgreens pharmacist or by a nearby pharmacy.

But opponents of pharmacists’ right to refuse say such policies are unworkable and unrealistic. “We don’t think it’s very likely that the majority of pharmacies across America will have the capacity” to transfer every refused prescription, says Rachel Laser, senior counsel at NWLC. Rural pharmacies, for example, often are staffed by just one pharmacist, and the next pharmacy may be towns away.

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Others in the industry are remaining mum on this no-win topic. “We really don’t know the details of store policies,” says Michelle McKenna, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. “We don’t ask, and we don’t track.”

Big Issue for Pharmacy Students

Although the refusal to dispense has not been documented as widespread, both current and future pharmacists are paying close attention to the controversy. “For students, the issue is very much in the forefront,” says Francis Palumbo, executive director of the Center on Drugs and Public Policy at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore.

Some say student pharmacists should consider the issue early in their career planning. “If pharmacists have issues with a particular medication, there are different settings where they can choose to practice pharmacy,” Lunner says.

That’s the approach taken by Brauer, who is a third-shift pharmacist at an Indiana hospital that allows her to not dispense contraceptives. But this solution hasn’t made her life simple. “I can’t tell you where I work, because it would bring Planned Parenthood to my employer’s door” to protest, claims Brauer, who was fired by an Ohio Kmart for refusing to fill birth-control prescriptions.

But others say the professional duty to dispense will ultimately prevail over pharmacists who feel they must refuse. “People considering a pharmacist career have to look hard inside and make sure they’re comfortable with not obstructing access to particular drugs,” Laser says.

This article originally appeared on Monster Career Advice.

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