A recent survey of pharmacists in the United States has revealed that as many as 39 percent of respondents are against state laws that would require them to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception known as the morning-after pill.
This rather surprising finding comes only days after four Illinois pharmacists were suspended without pay by their employer Walgreen Co. for refusing to fill such prescriptions.
According to reports, their refusals, were apparently due to moral or religious objections, which contravenes a state rule imposed in April that requires pharmacies selling FDA-approved contraceptives to fill prescriptions for emergency birth control.
According to a spokesperson,the Walgreen policy, is that pharmacists can refuse to prescribe agents that violate their moral beliefs, except where state law prohibits, provided that they take steps to have the prescription filled elsewhere.
It seems that attorneys for the pharmacists are considering legal action if Walgreen does not reconsider its stance against their clients.
In the current survey, HCD Research, a New Jersey-based marketing and communications research company, surveyed a nationally representative sample of 859 pharmacists.
Glenn R. Kessler, managing partner of HCD Research, says sixty-nine percent of pharmacists said they should have the authority to refuse filling prescriptions for emergency contraception.
Kessler they have been daunted by the response which has never happened before.
It seems that 39 percent of respondents believed that state laws should not require pharmacists to fill certain prescriptions.
The remaining 61 percent were generally in favour of laws requiring pharmacists to fill prescriptions, but the majority favoured having the option of referring patients to a different pharmacist if they found a prescription objectionable.
In direct comparison, a poll of physicians conducted by HCD Research in June, 79 percent of respondents supported state laws that require pharmacists to fill prescriptions despite their religious objections.
With regard to the Walgreen case, 63 percent of pharmacists who responded to the current survey did not believe the company should have put the four pharmacists on unpaid leave for refusing to fill the emergency contraception prescriptions.
However 29 percent of respondents supported the company's action.