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Barely a week after the FDA decided to keep the morning-after pill Plan B behind the pharmacy counter, and prescription-only for women under 17, the beleaguered drug is making headlines again. This time because a CVS pharmacist refused to sell the pill to a man -- thus highlighting the very real issues that some couples could come up against when having to request a time-sensitive medication from their friendly neighborhood pharmacist.
CVS Pharmacy issued an apology after one of their pharmacists refused to sell the pill to Isaac Kurtz of Houston. According to the Houston Press, Kurtz was doing the chivalrous thing, and offered to go to the drugstore for his girlfriend to pick up the morning-after pill, as well as a pregnancy test. (For the record, we’re pretty sure there aren’t any pregnancy tests that confirm conception less than 24 hours after doing the deed).
Here’s how Kurtz says it went down: "She tells me she needs to speak with the woman. I'm taken aback by this and ask her what she needs to talk to her about. I bought them here before without issue. She then tells me she won't sell it to me." According to Kurtz, the woman also told him that it was her “personal belief” and not CVS policy that kept her from selling him the drug.
Apparently, this particular pharmacist believes chivalry is dead and instead assumed the dude was up to no good. “Here, honey, don’t forget to take your, uh, prenatal vitamin… yeah, that’s it.”
In case this fact has escaped our readers, like it clearly did the pharmacist, the morning-after pill isn’t the only thing that can be potentially abused or misused. We could slip our baby a bottle of Robitussin or our husband a bunch of crushed up over-the-counter sleeping pills. And these things don’t require a permission slip for purchase.
According to CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis, the official CVS policy on dispensing the morning-after pill is to follow federal guidelines, which state that anyone over the age of 16 -- male or female -- can buy the morning-after pill without a prescription.
However, the policy goes on to say that, “Under federal law and some state laws, we must also accommodate a religious conviction that may prevent a pharmacist from dispensing a medication, provided that other arrangements can be made in advance to ensure the customer's medication needs can be satisfied.”
We’re not exactly sure how arrangements can be made ahead of time to get the customer her morning-after pill. Are you supposed to call ahead to the drugstore and ask if your pharmacist has any religious beliefs that will keep them from selling it to you? And, if so, could the manager send them on lunch break and have someone else ready at the counter when you come in for your emergency contraceptives?
DeAngelis tells iVillage that such religiously inclined pharmacists are “required to notify us in advance so that arrangements can be made to have someone else in the pharmacy available during their shifts to take care of the patient’s medication needs.” (Phew, no need to lock them in the break room, after all). And since a prescription for emergency contraception is not required for patients over the age of 16, in most cases a pharmacist is not even required to provide the medication. In other words, any cashier behind the pharmacy can -- and should -- sell it to you. But as this ordeal in Houston shows, things don’t always happen the way they’re supposed to.
While the incident in Houston was an isolated one, something tells us that this won’t be the last story we hear surrounding the FDA’s decision to keep Plan B behind the counter. It’s stressful enough to have to contend with a broken condom or other birth control mishaps, without couples being stymied in their quest to be responsible sexually active adults.