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.
Subscribe to our E-List to get FREE e-mail updates, HERE.