Walgreens pharmacist dispensing and counseling policies revisited
by Karen Brauer, MS, RPh

It is unfortunate that those who are committed to upholding the sanctity of human life, as is  Mrs. Magaly  Llaguno, carry additional burdens even in the hardest of times.   Mrs. Llaguno has a serious health condition which requires her to endure arduous and expensive medical treatments.  She has been purchasing some extremely costly  medications from Walgreens specialty pharmacy.  

Of concern to her is the fact that Walgreens has been dismissing some of its pharmacists for refusing to dispense Plan B, which often operates by ending the life of an early human embryo.  This drug presents ethical problems to the groups of people who would not kill any human willfully, and who object to embryonic stem cell research.

Mrs. Llaguno   wrote to the Walgreens CEO  and she wrote to me of ethical concerns she has about doing business with this company.   I requested  the information that she obtained from Walgreens representatives, and she agreed to allow us to publish this communication, for the benefit of pharmacists who might be making decisions about their present or future employment, as well as other interested people of prolife persuasion.

We thank Mrs. Llaguno and continue to pray for her well being during this struggle with her health condition.

Below are communications from Mrs. Llaguno to Walgreens and replies from the Supervisor of customer relations, and from the CEO, Mr. Jeffrey A.Rein.

At the bottom of the letter from the CEO is some contact information if you feel moved to let him know your thoughts.  Below that are a few added comments from me.


Dear Walgreens CEO:
On December 15, 2005, Walgreen's put four of its pharmacists on unpaid leave, for refusing to dispense Plan B, which at times acts as an abortifacient by impeding implantation. Thus, your company tried to force pharmacists to go against their own conscience. This is unjust, unfair and dictatorial. We live in a free country, where we have freedom of religion and freedom of choice where it concerns acting in accordance with our own conscience. We have the right, given not only by the state but also by God, to refuse to collaborate in the killing of an innocent, defenseless human being.
Furthermore, Pharmacy is a life-saving profession, not a means to exterminate another human being. With assisted suicide already approved and implemented in Oregon, it might be only a matter of time before pharmacists in other states are pressured to dispense other death-dealing drugs.
I am a multiple myeloma cancer patient and at the present time I am purchasing from your Specialty Pharmacy Revlimid 25 mg, with a cost of almost $8,000 a month. I don't want my business going to a company that doesn't respect the individual conscience of their employees. Please let me know what is Walgreen's policy in this matter at the present time. Thank you.
Yours truly,

Mrs.Magaly Llaguno


June 29, 2007

Dear Ms. Llaguno,

Thank you for taking the time to write us with your concern.  Please be
assured that Walgreens takes customer comments and complaints very
seriously, and we will continue to try to improve the way we do business.

I received your message regarding our Illinois pharmacists.  I appreciate
your concerns and wanted to address them personally.

In every other state in the nation, we offer pharmacists exactly the
flexibility you suggest - they may decline to fill a prescription based on
moral objections as long as it is filled promptly by another pharmacist in
that store or a nearby pharmacy.  In this way, we meet the needs of the
patient and respect our pharmacists' beliefs.  It generally works well.

The state of Illinois is another story.  The Governor's rule (approved by
the legislature) states that no pharmacy can refuse to fill the Plan B
contraceptive medication.  To do so jeopardizes the license of the pharmacy,
the pharmacist and the pharmacy manager in that store.  As a retailer in
this state, we have no choice but to follow state law.  The real problem
comes in our many 24-hour stores where there is only one pharmacist working
during the night or in some less-busy stores where there is only one
pharmacist for certain times of the day.  In other states, we handle this by
having the prescription filled in a nearby store, but that's against the law
in Illinois.  We have already been cited for declining to fill the drug, and
disciplinary action is pending.

Walgreens is between a rock and a hard place on this issue.  We certainly
did not initiate this ruling.  We would far prefer to follow the policy
we've had in place for years.  We believe it respects both pharmacists and
patients.  We don't want to place our pharmacists in a bad position any more
than you do.  We have offered the pharmacists who are not able to fill these
prescriptions positions in other states, especially Missouri, since the
pharmacists in question are very close to the state line.  We will also help
them obtain licenses in another state if necessary.

The problem here is not between Walgreens and our pharmacists, but between
the Governor of Illinois and all pharmacists.  We would certainly support a
change in the state's position that would allow our pharmacists in Illinois
to practice their profession as they do in every other state.

Again, thank you for taking the time to write us, and to read this reply. I
hope I've been able to clarify the issue and explain the root of the
problem.  We very much hope you continue your long-term relationship with


Tonya P.
Supervisor, Consumer Relations

Ref # 1110736

June 25, 2007

Mrs. Magaly Llaguno

Dear Mrs. Llaguno,

Thank you for your letter regarding Walgreens policy on the dispensing of prescriptions. 

Our goal regarding emergency contraception and the dispensing of similar medications is to ensure that our female patients are able to have all of their prescription needs met.  We also have a legal obligation to comply with the state and federal regulations concerning religious accommodation to our employees.  When this creates a conflict for our pharmacists, Walgreens has strict procedures that mandate prompt action on the part of both the pharmacist and store management.  Our policy requires that store management is immediately alerted in this scenerio and takes all of the necessary steps to ensure that the patient receives the prescription in a timely manner.  This policy also strictly limits communication between the pharmacist and the patient in these situations; specifically, the pharmacists are prohibited from voicing their religious beliefs to the patient. 

Although pharmacists aren't required to personally fill the prescription, they are required to take proactive steps with store management to facilitate having the prescription filled by another pharmacist.  Failure of a pharmacist to comply with this policy is grounds for immediate discipline.  This policy is intended to ensure the patient will receive her prescribed medication in a timely fashion.  By meeting out patients' needs in this way, while respecting the religious beliefs of our pharmacists, we can satisfy all parties involved. 

Thank you for taking the time to communicate your concerns.


Jeffrey A. Rein


Walgreen Co. Corporate Offices, 

200 Wilmot Road, MS 2234, 

Deerfield Illinois 60015-4616
847-914-2002  FAX 847-914-3652  




Karen Brauer's comments.

It's apparent from the two letters that the Walgreen's Supervisor of customer relations has heard from more customers than the CEO,   but the more hard line views of the CEO are the most significant.   A pharmacist who fully informs a patient about the mechanisms of the so-called "morning after" pill is likely to face discipline, because the motive for fully informing the patient about this drug is somehow "religious".    The mechanisms are only significant to academics, health care professionals, and those people who have concerns about stopping human life.  Most of us know that those concerns stem from the religious view that human life has value, and that humans ought not to be killed purposely. 

The pharmacist "gag order" on communication with the patients deprives the latter of the information that  they need to determine if the drug is right for them.   We know that many of the purveyors of Plan B are quite willing to lie about the mechanism.   The  continuing education materials (directed to pharmacists and technicians)  from U.S. Pharmacist, and from Power Pak contain a deception about the mechanism, couched in very legalistic language.  Pharmacists who have had better education than this are the best source of information about Plan B, and similar drugs, and they should not be constrained from their most significant role to educate patients about medications.

Walgreens' policy in ALL states, not just Illinois, is to force their pharmacists to be complicit in the dispensing of Plan B, and to gag them, preventing them from offering  mechanistic information about the drug to women, because the motivation for giving it, and the need for receiving it, is the religious conviction that all human life has value.

From my point of view,  the  "educational" and recruiting efforts of Walgreens have noticably and considerably increased.    (Pharmacists can obtain this info by watching the job ads,  the pharmacy news journals, and their mailboxes.)   It is  my suspicion that Walgreens will need to work very hard in the future to recruit pharmacists, and especially to retain them. (Pharmacists who are actually willing to work there might use this information to negotiate salary.)

Please pass this message to any interested parties. 

God bless!


Karen L. Brauer  MS, RPh
Pharmacists for Life International