Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Connecticut Gets Tough on Wal-Mart Plan B

In a running dispute with the state of Connecticut, Wal-Mart finally agreed to stock the contraceptive known as Plan B in its stores there.  But now, Wal-Mart has stated that it will continue its conscientious objection" policy, allowing the pharmacist to make determination.


But a Wal-Mart spokesman said the chain would maintain its "conscientious objection" policy, which allows Wal-Mart or Sam's Club pharmacists who do not feel comfortable dispensing a prescription to refer customers to another pharmacist or pharmacy. The policy conforms to guidelines of the American Pharmaceutical Association and is similar to the policies of several other major pharmacy chains.

Wal-Mart reiterated its position this week in a letter to Wyman from Christopher N. Buchanan, the company's senior manager for public affairs.

"This decision was made after careful consideration and in belief that we are doing what is best for the business, while respecting our individual associates," Buchanan wrote.

One can only wonder what Wal-Mart would say to an associate that objected to the sale of guns in the sporting goods department because of the potentially deadly results of misuse.  Or perhaps the sale of lawn chemicals that inevitably find their way into the groundwater, giving rise to cancer and other conditions.  Or the sale of high calorie/fat foods that can cause obesity/diabetes.  I suspect that they would be shown the door forthwith.  But I digress.

Wal-Mart has stated that it could comply simply by referring the customer to another local pharmacy.  State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal responded that this is not acceptable.

"They have to make the drug available at the pharmacy where the patient goes," Blumenthal said. "Patients can't be shuttled from one pharmacy to another."

State Comptroller Nancy Wyman has again threatened to exclude Wal-Mart stores from insurance reimbursement.

Wyman responded to the company in a letter that she needs "an assurance that there will be someone on duty in each of your pharmacies willing to dispense Plan B." If there is no one on duty, Wyman wants specific information from Wal-Mart on how the company would ensure the patient's ability to receive the drug.

"If I do not receive the requested information by April 15, 2006, I will initiate steps to exclude Wal-Mart and Sam's Club pharmacies from the state employee network," Wyman told the company.

Blumenthal continues:

"We have never encountered this issue with any other chains or pharmacies," Blumenthal said. "No other pharmacy has even raised the issue. They understand their legal obligations under the plan. ... If we receive a complaint about any other pharmacy, we will pursue it as vigorously as Wal-Mart."

There are 31 Wal-Mart stores in Connecticut.  I applaud the Comptroller and Attorney General.  


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