Bill Introduced To Require Pharmacies To Fill All Prescriptions, Including Emergency Contraception
U.S. lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation that would require pharmacies to ensure that all prescriptions are filled without delay, even if a pharmacist on staff refuses to dispense certain medications -- such as contraceptives -- because of moral or religious reasons, Reuters Health reports. The Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act would not require an individual pharmacist to dispense medications that violate his or her religious or moral beliefs (Rovner, Reuters Health, 4/14).
However, if a pharmacist has a personal objection to filling a certain prescription, another pharmacist at the same pharmacy would be required to fill the prescription. Pharmacies that regularly stock prescription contraceptives also would be required to order "without delay" emergency contraception if a patient requests it, CQ HealthBeat reports. The measure also would bar pharmacists from "harass[ing] or humiliat[ing]" customers attempting to fill a prescription, according to CQ HealthBeat (CQ HealthBeat, 4/14). The bill also would ban pharmacists who decline to fill certain prescriptions from refusing to transfer prescriptions to another pharmacy, failing to return prescriptions to customers, or otherwise "deterring" a patient from ordering or filling a prescription, according to Reuters Health (Reuters Health, 4/14).
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), could face "steep obstacles" in Congress, Reuters reports (Kenen, Reuters, 4/14).
If the bill becomes law, it would override state legislation giving pharmacists "wider discretion" to refuse to dispense certain medications, Reuters Health reports (Reuters Health, 4/14). Arkansas, Mississippi and South Dakota already have passed laws that would allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions because of their personal beliefs, and Georgia officials have adopted a regulation allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports.
Lawmakers in 22 other states -- Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin -- have introduced similar legislation. Lawmakers in four states -- California, Missouri, New Jersey and West Virginia -- have proposed legislation that would require pharmacists to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, according to the AP/Newsday (de la Cruz, AP/Long Island Newsday, 4/14).