1.  What does it mean to say that Plan B is “safe and effective?”

There is nothing close to a guarantee that it will work.  In fact, the clinical
trials showed very little to no reduction in overall pregnancy or abortion
rates when it was made available to large groups of women. And there
was a serious increase in late diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy, a
potentially life-threatening condition.  Women taking it were not made
obviously sick over the short term is all that can be said for certain as to
safety. Don’t forget in the first place that not every episode of intercourse
will lead to pregnancy.  The number that might be prevented by Plan B
is small to begin with.

2.  What is the consumer demand?

A clue would be finding out how many prescriptions for plan B have
been filled in this state since it was approved by the FDA.

3.  How unavailable is plan B?

The story of nine women who attempted to get plan B at four
pharmacies in Olympia only tells us that four pharmacies do not carry it.  
I wonder if they were part of the same chain, and how did the women
select which pharmacies to try?  That they could not buy it may inflame
some advocates of plan B, but that is not a very scientific way of
surveying for an availability problem.  Is the government going to tell
businesses what they must sell?

4.  How important is right of conscience?

The issue before the Board of Pharmacy is whether or not an individual
pharmacist can exercise a right of conscience not to fill a specific
prescription. People exercise their right of conscience in some fashion
when providing a service in any work or profession.  In fact we expect
that from our lawyers, teachers, doctors, building contractors, etc. As a
physician, patients sometimes request from me services, medications, or
testing that I do not feel is in their best interest, in which case I will not
provide it, and explain why.

Some laws prevent a seller from being arbitrary (think equal housing).
Some protect everyone (such as stopping at red lights).  However, we   
should be extremely frightened about establishing a precedent of trying
to force individuals to act against what they believe to be right, or the
public will lose the protection of individuals using their conscience in
other areas besides Plan B.

5.  Are there ways to help women find Plan B other than forcing pharmacies to  
carry it and forcing pharmacists to fill the prescription?

There could be a web site listing places to purchase it, or a toll-free
number, or a brochure, or all of the above.  Who would pay for it?  How
about Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. which stands to make the most money
from the sale of Plan B?  I am sure there are plenty of organizations who
would also include a web address link from their site.

This is not just about Plan B.  I encourage individuals to write to the Board
of Pharmacy to prevent them from establishing a rule forcing
pharmacists to fill every prescription at threat of losing their licenses.  The
best outcome in my opinion would be protection of pharmacists by
enacting the rule that allows them to act according to their
conscience.  That precedent indirectly will help all of us in health care
and will protect the public because you can bet that other scarier issues
are coming.

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Susan E. Rutherford, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology
Board Certified, Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Human Right
To Conscience

P.O. Box 59832
Seattle, WA 98058


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