Has Walgreens Found a Way Around Pharmacists’ Religious Objections?
You would think if you were a devout Jew or Muslim, you would probably not take a job in a pork processing facility. If you’re a Christian Scientist, going to med school to become a surgeon probably isn’t the right fit for you. It’s because of this logic that I’ve always questioned why someone would choose to become a pharmacist knowing in advance they may need to refuse to dispense drugs prescribed by doctors.
Regardless of my own figurative head scratching, there have been numerous cases over the years in which pharmacists have cited religion as the reason for refusing to dispense prescriptions to patients who clearly don’t share their beliefs. In large metro areas, there is usually a way around this particular challenge for the consumer, but in rural areas the decision to deny service is much more problematic.
Clearly, this is an issue that is not going away anytime soon as evidenced by Walgreens announcement that it would not allow the personal religious beliefs of individual pharmacists to keep customers from getting their prescriptions. The company faced a situation last year where two women were denied access to birth control prescriptions by a pharmacist in one of its stores in New Mexico. According to reports, Walgreens pharmacists in Alabama and Georgia have refused to sell emergency contraceptives to men.
The chain issued a statement: "To balance the needs of our pharmacists and our customers, Walgreens has developed appropriate policies and procedures for our pharmacies to assure that these prescriptions, for example, birth control, are handled as efficiently as other prescriptions without imposing any burden on the customer."
Walgreens plans to provide training to store personnel so they may comply with its policy in the future.
- Walgreens assures on birth control pill policy, says ACLU – The Associated Press/Crain’s Chicago Business (reg. required)
- Walgreens reviews contraception sales policies after pharmacists, including in Alabama, refuse to sell pills to men – AL.com
Do you see the issues that arise when pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions as a hiring or training matter? How can pharmacy operators guarantee customers access to prescription medicines in light of pharmacists’ objections, especially in smaller, rural locations?