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Board Of Pharmacy: Druggists Can't Block Morning-After Prescriptions

12-Apr-2007: SEATTLE -- Druggists who think "morning-after" birth control pills are tantamount to abortion can't stand in the way of a patient's right to get a prescription, state regulators said Thursday.

In a unanimous vote, the state Board of Pharmacy ruled that drug stores have a duty to fill lawful prescriptions, regardless of an individual pharmacist's personal objections to any particular medication.

The rule is a compromise worked out last year by Gov. Chris Gregoire, women's advocates and the Washington State Pharmacy Association.

Druggists with personal objections to a drug still could have a limited escape by getting a co-worker to fill an order. But that would only apply if the patient is able to get their prescription in the same pharmacy visit.

The rule was prompted by a controversy over some pharmacists' objections to selling emergency contraceptives, known as the morning-after pill.

Sold as Plan B, emergency contraception is a high dose of the drug found in many regular birth-control pills. It can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

Some critics consider the pill related to abortion, although it is different from the abortion pill RU-486 and has no effect on women who already are pregnant.

Formerly available only by prescription in many areas of the country, the federal Food and Drug Administration made the morning-after pill available over the counter to adults in August.

Last year, the state Pharmacy Board declared that pharmacists might be able to deny prescriptions for personal reasons.

That was the pharmacy association's preferred route, but the policy angered Gregoire, women's groups and some state lawmakers.

After hinting that she could replace board members, Gregoire worked out the compromise rule adopted Thursday. The rule will take effect in mid-June, Health Department spokesman Jeff Smith said.


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