Pharmacist knows best? Enacting legislation in Oklahoma prohibiting pharmacists from refusing to provide emergency contraceptives.

Author:Watt, Misty Cooper

Misty Cooper Watt, Pharmacist Knows Best? Enacting Legislation in Oklahoma Prohibiting Pharmacists from Refusing to Provide Emergency Contraceptives, 42 TULSA L. REV. 771 (2007).

Since the FDA made emergency contraceptives available over-but-behind the pharmacist counter, physicians have been excluded from the decision of whether a patient should receive emergency contraceptives. However, prescriptions are still required to receive emergency contraceptives for women under the age of eighteen. In such instances, physicians, rather than pharmacists, should be the gatekeepers of prescription medications. The traditional role of physicians, as far as prescriptions are concerned, is to be the prescriber. The physician diagnoses what medication the patient needs and writes a prescription. The pharmacist, on the other hand, is the dispenser. The pharmacist fills the prescription and gives it to the patient with very few exceptions. When pharmacists decide not to fill valid, legal prescriptions without a solid basis such as drug interactions, they take themselves out of the role of dispenser and put themselves in the role of physician. This presents major problems because the professions are meant to be separate and pharmacists are not in a position to overstep the decisions made by physicians. Pharmacists have different relationships with their customers than those between physicians and their patients. Likewise, pharmacists are trained and regulated only to be dispensers of medications.

Recently, there has been a debate concerning whether physicians should be able to dispense medications. Pharmacists and other critics of this developing trend argue that it is important to keep the professions separate. Besides obvious financial motivations influencing this argument for pharmacists, there is also a belief that the division of labor in these two professions developed out of necessity. Pharmacists and physicians have different education, training and skills. Over time, these differences evolved into a separation of the two professions. Allowing physicians to dispense medication would disrupt this traditional separation and the customary "checks and balances." It also creates a likelihood that patients will not be served as effectively because pharmacists and physicians specialize in different fields. In an era in which specialization in medicine is considered good for creating health care providers better able to treat the patient's specific needs...

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