Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pharmaceutical interuptus

Hello my name is Valencia Bankston and I'm a student Journalist. I'm doing a feature story on pharmacies refusing to prescribe birth-control. I wanted to post a couple of questions and hopefully people on this message forum could answer my questions.

Please include name, age, city and state, and occupation title.
I would really appreciate your help, you can e-mail the answers to

1. What do you think about pharmacists refusing to fill birth control prescriptions?

2. How could this affect women?

3. Did your pharmacy or anyone that you know pharmacy (sic) refuse to fill a prescription?

4. If more pharmacies refuse to fill prescriptions, what do you think will happen?

5. Do you see this as a serious problem?
Valencia Bankston

Since Valencia Bankston left the above questionnaire as a comment to this post (and also wrote to my e-mail three times), I thought I would post my response here. I've commented about this topic in other blogs, and this gives me the opportunity to address the matter here. I invite you to do the same either here or in an e-mail to Valencia .

As been mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I am a male, father of two, born before 1965, and reside in Northeast Pennsylvania (sorry, I choose not to mention the city for privacy reasons). I am a Systems Engineer by day.

1. I think it is potentially troubling but not at all a major concern at this time. Last week I spent some time on Google and Yahoo! researching this story. Since the only credible reporting of this 'problem' comes from one Washington Post article (and dozens of OpEd's commenting on it), it is hard to see how this isolated incident is a 'problem.'

2. It could affect women, and it could affect men as well. I don't see it as only affecting one gender alone, although the underlying problem of men acting like SOBs makes it far too often more of a women's problem. Despite the hype, not all men are cads (but we are pigs), and quite many do take responsibility for themselves, their mates, and their offspring. However, as this particular issue is only an isolated incident, it's not that big a deal for either gender.

3. No. And since a search of Yahoo! News, Google News, and the AP wire can only present one credible reporting of the story, its not likely many people will truthfully answer this question in the affirmative.

4. As I read the WP article, one pharmacist at one pharmacy had the problem with the filling of the script. As such, there hasn't been a 'pharmacy' per se that has refused to fill the script. This question is moot, unless evidence to the contrary can be presented.

5. Do I think one pharmacist is a problem? No.

Quite frankly, this is much ado about very little. I live in rural Pennsylvania. Within a 7 mile radius of my home there is a CVS, a Rite Aid and an Ekerd pharmacy. There are no less than 4 pharmacies within supermarkets and one inside a K-mart, plus no fewer than 2 independent pharmacies inside that same circle.

10 pharmacies, 7 miles, and the nearest 'city' is more than 25 miles away (and probably dozens of pharmacies in between). Supply and Demand rule the day again; I cannot fathom all of these pharmacies deciding to take a stand against prescribing birth control. If K-Mart, for example, says no, RiteAid will hold up a banner saying 'We Welcome K-Mart Customers.' It just doesn't make economic sense to do otherwise.

People have said 'if you're a pharmacist that won't write these scripts, you're in the wrong profession', and to some extent I'll give that point credit. If Pharmacist Phil won't fill your script, complain to pharmacy Manager Mary. If you can't get your scripts at pharmacy 'A', take your dollars to pharmacy 'B'. YOU will put 'A' out of business (at least to that extent). Pharmacies that don't take such a view will be easy to find (and I haven't even mentioned mail-order pharmacies). It is that simple.

There are many people calling for legislation to force pharmacies to comply, but there is clearly no present danger of this issue rising to such levels. Doing so would further government involvement in an area it simply doesn't belong. Case in point: Catholic hospitals don't perform abortions, yet this clearly doesn't present a problem for access to this procedure.

Incidentally, I've e-mailed Valencia my response and a request for information regarding this 'feature story', and I will report back any response I get.

UPDATE: Leave it to my readers to point out when I am wrong.

My search last week did only produce one WP article on one pharmacist refusing to fill a script for birth control; today I see there are more incidents (see here and here).

Once again, these are a few incidents, and nothing the free market cannot handle on its own.

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