• Another Plan B outrage

    I don’t even know where to start with this one. The facts:

    Jason Melbourne had already visited four pharmacies in search of Plan B for his wife when he was referred to a CVS in Mesquite, Texas, some 15 miles away from his home. They had one box left:

    But when he finally got there, the overnight pharmacist, Minni Matthew, told Melbourne she wasn’t going to sell it to him.

    In order for him to buy the meds, the pharmacist said, she’d need to talk to and see the ID of his wife, who was at home with their two young children. He asked why, and she pointed to the fine print on the medication’s box, which says it can only be sold to someone age 17 or older. Melbourne pointed out that he was well over 17.

    “I’ve bought this plenty of times in my life, and it’s never been a problem,” he said. “Are you telling me every other place I’ve bought it from has been wrong?”

    Didn’t matter, Matthew said, since the medicine obviously wasn’t for him.

    “Why don’t you show me the law that says you can’t sell this to a man?” Melbourne replied.

    And then it gets worse:

    That’s when a male pharmacy technician informed Melbourne that they didn’t want to sell emergency contraception to men because they might be giving it to “rape victims.”

    I’m still not sure how to unpack that.

    I can’t wrap my head around the idea that they won’t sell it to a man. My first thought is that they assumed that he might be buying it for a small girl. But how would they know that any woman buying it isn’t doing the same? The answer is, of course, they can’t. That’s why it’s not their job to figure that out. They just sell it to people of the right age. In fact, there are tons of regulations and laws that allow people to buy and pick up drugs for others. None of them that I know of are gender based.

    Their answer is that he might be a rapist? How does that play out in their head? He raped someone and then was immediately concerned that he might have gotten her pregnant? So he want to a store (where he was likely on video) and tried to buy emergency contraception so that he could prevent the pregnancy from happening? And then he was going to let her go? And by preventing the rapist from buying the drug, the pharmacist achieves what? Please, explain it to me. I can’t figure this out.

    I try not to get angry about stuff like this. I really do. But this isn’t the first time this has happened. There’s actual data showing this kind of stuff is widespread. So what did the government do to make things better? Nothing. They overruled the FDA decision that might do so. We shouldn’t let them forget it.

    And, before you start telling me how we need to “protect the children” from some hypothetical, remember that there are tons of other drugs that are over the counter that are far more dangerous and do actual harm that no one ever says anything about.

    • This situation made me pop a blood vessel. The first reason, access, needs no explanation. The second reason is that the pharmacy sought to illegally substitute their judgment for that of their prospective patient, and it should also be obvious why this is wrong.

      Third and less obviously, many Americans are still conflicted on reproductive health issues. The abortion wars, unfortunately, will continue to dog us for decades. Generally, access to contraception seems safe … but a lot of people are conflicted about allowing minors access to contraception. And I watched the Saturday Republican debates, and there was one question stemming from Rick Santorum saying that perhaps states should be allowed to ban contraception if they chose … Romney dodged the question, as he’s always done, but how long before some madman tries to get it done in some state?

      As to the thing about minors, sometimes the interventions with the greatest public health impact are counterintuitive, like allowing minors access to Plan B and needle exchanges. I guess we have some work to do explaining things to the public.

    • I was quite surprised to learn that it’s legal for pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription in cases other than those in which they have reasonable grounds to believe that either the physician made an error or when they believe that the prescription will endanger the patient.

      Anyone know if there are any guidelines like that out there, and if so, what they are?

    • What you are seeing is the implementation of right wing agenda that seeks to impose its moral view on the rest of the nation. They want sexual relations to be between married men and women solely for the purpose of procreation, and so they act that the pharmacist in the post.

      This is just a preview of right wing health care policy if they gain control of the government.

    • ” And by preventing the rapist from buying the drug, the pharmacist achieves what?”

      This has my head spinning. Assuming that the rapist was insane enough to get emergency contraception and wants to prevent pregnancy, we can assume that he wants to let the victim live. (The twisted logic should be obvious, right?) By denying the sale, has the pharmacist actually increased the victim’s danger? If all the insane rapist cares about is preventing his reproduction, at this point he has only one option…murdering the mother.

      I clearly watch too much Criminal Minds…

    • Tony M — I’m not sure that the Criminal Minds life/death scenario would necessarily occur to most people. (Although if they’re already making the enormous leap of assuming the customer is a rapist and probable pedophile, then maybe you’re right.)

      I suspect the pharmacists are thinking — bravely! nobly! — “I must protect the victim…”

      What they’re not doing is following that thought to its disgraceful conclusion: “…by allowing her to fall pregnant.”

      The whole thing highlights just how twisted the “morality” of reproductive politics has become.

    • Another great post- I have officially added theincidentaleconomist feed to my feeddemon subscriptions.

      As for the issue, it is unfortunate that some pharmacists feel the need to act as a sort of moral police (and as you pointed out in this case I am not sure what that morality is even trying to accomplish), but I really wonder how often questions of morality affect the actions of not only pharmacists but doctors who might prefer certain treatments over others for similar reasons. It really is a delicate issue, but I think professionalism should come first in the workplace and override any personal interests or opinions. It would be interesting to see how many of these cases are also driven by liability concerns (for example maybe they thought if he was a rapist they might have to go to court, etc.)- having worked in a few pharmacies, I know it can be a concern. In this case, making Plan B over the counter would solve that too.

    • Was a complaint filed with CVS? With the state board of pharmacy? If consumers don’t follow up and complain to all possible agencies then this type of ridiculous behavior will continue unchecked

    • I’m not sure about Texas but in many states the pharmasist does have the right to refuse to fill a prescription. And the reasons the pharmacy gave do have some validation. If a minor were to take the drug it could make her very ill. The rapist thing is a stretch but most rapes are aquaintence or date rapes. So it would be possible for a rapist to care enough about his victim to go and get her plan B. its a frustrating situation but the pharmasist does have the right to make that call.