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RRP’s Campaign To Track Pharmacist Refusals To Fill EC Prescriptions In New York

RRP has developed what we hope will be a useful tool to gather information about women’s experiences obtaining emergency contraception (EC). EC, known as Plan B, is an important method to prevent unwanted pregnancies after intercourse where a contraceptive method failed or where no contraception was used. The medication reduces the risk of pregnancy by approximately 89% if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. It is most effective within the first 24 hours; the longer the delay between intercourse and treatment, the higher the risk of pregnancy.

However, some women have had difficulty obtaining EC when they need it because: they were unable to obtain a prescription in time; some pharmacies do not stock the drug; and some individual pharmacists refuse to fill or refill prescriptions for EC, based on religious or moralistic objections or misunderstandings about the drug.

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent decision to allow pharmacies to sell EC without a prescription to women 18 and older is a long-awaited—but partial—victory. Although EC’s over-the-counter status greatly improves access, minors must still obtain a prescription to get EC. Other populations lacking official proof-of-age documentation, such as immigrants, may also have to submit an EC prescription to a pharmacist to access the drug. The types of barriers women faced before EC became available over the counter may thus continue to impede minors and others who must still obtain EC by prescription. Pharmacist refusals remain an important concern.

While RRP recognizes the right of pharmacists with deeply held religious objections to not dispense EC, pharmacies must create back-up plans for another pharmacist to fill the EC prescription as written without delay. Pharmacists who refuse to fill an initial or refill prescription and fail to provide the patient another way to get EC without delay block access to necessary health care and interfere with a prescribing provider’s practice of medicine.

Patients should call us at 212-607-3339 to report any incidents.

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