HEALTH

Court rules that Washington state pharmacists may deny Plan B

BY Michael Johnsen

TACOMA, Wash. A federal judge here on Wednesday ruled in favor of a pharmacist’s right to “refuse and refer” the dispensing of any prescription for the emergency contraceptive Plan B, effectively overruling a state mandate that pharmacists in the state of Washington not decline to dispense a prescription drug based on moral beliefs unless there was a pharmacist coworker present who would adjudicate the prescription.

“The defendants [the state of Washington] are enjoined from enforcing [the anti-discrimination provisions of the new ruling enacted July 26] against any pharmacy which, or pharmacist who, refuses to dispense Plan B but instead immediately refers the patient either to the nearest source of Plan B or to a nearby source for Plan B,” concluded Judge Ronald Leighton of the U.S. District Court in his decision.

“Whether or not Plan B … terminates a pregnancy, to those who believe that life begins at conception, the drug is designed to terminate a life,” the judge wrote. “[The regulations] appear designed to impose a Hobson’s choice for the majority of pharmacists who object to Plan B: dispense a drug that ends a life as defined by their religious teachings, or leave their present positions in the state of Washington.”

The suit was filed by two individual pharmacists and the grocer Ralph’s Thriftway, which operates two supermarkets, one day before the state enacted its regulation this summer. Prior to the adoption of the regulations, Ralph’s Thriftway had been the object of a boycott organized by persons protesting the grocer’s refusal to stock Plan B. Both the store and the pharmacy manager were subsequently investigated by the Washington State Board of Pharmacy for allegedly failing to maintain an adequate stock of medicines. The Board later initiated an additional investigation in response to allegations that Ralph’s Thriftway violated pharmacy regulations by not stocking Plan B.

The American Pharmacists Association supports a pharmacist’s right to refuse and refer, but recognizing the central role of many pharmacists to the local health care system, the association emphasizes that those patients refused a prescription ought to be directed to a pharmacy or pharmacist that will fill that prescription in a timely manner.

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Judge dismisses important J&J claim in Red Cross case

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON A federal judge on Monday dismissed an important part of the lawsuit brought by Johnson & Johnson against the American Red Cross seeking to restrict the Red Cross’s use of its emblem on first aid, health, safety and emergency preparedness products, the Red Cross announced Tuesday.

The judge’s ruling dismissed entirely the J&J claim that the Red Cross promised not to engage in the sale of first aid, health, safety and emergency preparedness products.

“I appreciate the court’s decision and hope that Johnson & Johnson will reassess their actions and drop the case altogether,” stated Mark Everson, president and chief executive officer of the American Red Cross. “As the recent wildfires in California demonstrated, the Red Cross has an important mission to perform, and we want to put this distraction behind us and do the work the American people expect us to do.”

Following a hearing on Monday, Oct. 29, at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Jed Rakoff ruled that the “promissory estoppel” claim, a very significant portion of the pharmaceutical company’s lawsuit against the Red Cross, was “dismissed with prejudice.” The judge’s ruling also means that J&J cannot refile arguments on this claim.

The judge’s order comes nearly three months after J&J filed suit against the Red Cross for the Red Cross’ use of its emblem on products it sells to the public.

The court has set a schedule for hearing the remaining claims early next year.

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Lil’ Drug Store signs exclusivity deal with Carmex

BY Michael Johnsen

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa Lil’ Drug Store has been chosen to be the exclusive distributor of Carmex Lip Balm to the convenience class of trade, the company announced Wednesday.

“With over 140,000 convenience stores nationwide, this is a major opportunity for both Lil’ Drug and Carma,” stated Mike Pietsch, vice president of sales and marketing for Carma Laboratories, which distributes Carmex.

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