A bill that would protect patients from pharmacists attempting to deny them access to prescribed medication is now on the desk of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The measure, which easily passed both state houses late last week, requires pharmacies to fill prescriptions in a timely matter.
If Gov. Schwarzenegger approves the bill, pharmacists who are opposed to filling a particular medication (i.e. emergency contraception) would be required to notify their employers of their moral objections in writing ahead of time. The pharmacy managers, in turn, must ensure that each patient receives her prescription when she needs it – a major concern in the case of emergency contraception (EC), which is most effective when taken within 72 hours.
Under current California law, a patient has little recourse when a pharmacy refuses to fill a prescription. A recent Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and NARAL Pro Choice California project discovered that women in the state are being denied EC from pharmacies known to stock it and that 13 percent of pharmacies do not stock EC and will not provide a referral for a pharmacy that does, even if the patient requests one. Gov. Schwarzenegger has yet to take a position on the proposal.