Input during a public comment period fell overwhelmingly against changing the rules that ban pharmacies from refusing to dispense drugs. Gov. Chris Gregoire is opposed, too.
But the state Board of Pharmacy makes the decision, and it agreed today on a 3-2 vote to move ahead with changes.
At issue is a rule the board set in 2007 at Gregoire’s urging. It requires pharmacies to dispense all legal drugs.
A group of druggists who out of moral opposition don’t stock Plan B, the morning-after contraceptive, sued the state. Their lawsuit has dragged on and put pressure on the board to relent.
“We can’t afford more lawsuits,” said board member Dan Connolly, who made the motion to move forward. “If we don’t change the current rule, this board is going to always be in litigation.”
A trial set to begin in July was put on hold after the board’s lawyers in Attorney General Rob McKenna‘s office negotiated a legal stipulation with the suing pharmacists. The stipulation says the board intends to adopt a rule allowing druggists to refer patients to a different pharmacy, “including for conscientious reasons.”
Board members today asked staff for information to help them craft a rule allowing pharmacists to refer patients to someone else for “time-sensitive” medication. That includes Plan B and hundreds of other drugs, members said.
The board agreed unanimously in June to start the rule-making process. Today, after a public comment period that brought in 5,359 comments &html; including 4,448 in opposition to a change &html; board members Rebecca Hille and Vandana Slatter voted ‘no.’
Chairman Gary Harris also spoke against a change, but he does not vote except in case of ties. Christopher Barry and Fircrest pharmacist Al Linggi joined Connolly in supporting a change. Kim Ekker did not attend the meeting.