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Originally published Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 4:05 PM

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Washington is right to appeal ruling allowing pharmacies not to fill Plan B prescriptions

Gov. Chris Gregoire fully supports the state Attorney General's office appeal of a federal court ruling on Plan B. The case now goes to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where it belongs. This ruling cries out for reversal.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE rights and responsibilities of pharmacists in Washington state are headed to a higher court in a case that cries out for more clear-headed thinking.

The state attorney general's office is appealing a federal ruling that says the state cannot force pharmacies to sell Plan B or other emergency contraceptives. U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled, in essence, pharmacists' personal views surpass patients' rights to timely medication.

A few state pharmacy board rules are in play: One says that when the pharmacy has a medicine in stock, the pharmacy has to deliver it; a second says pharmacies must stock medicines in demand; a third says a pharmacist can decline to dispense a medication, but the pharmacy has to make other accommodations to fill the prescription.

Some pharmacists argued that they did not have to offer emergency contraceptives because of religious reasons.

Gov. Chris Gregoire supports the appeal. The case now goes to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where it belongs.

There are several exceptions to the rules. A pharmacist can refuse to fill a potentially fraudulent prescription, or to dispense a drug on shelves past its pull date or one with worrisome contraindications.

Plaintiffs argued that those exceptions include everything but religious concerns and that is unfair.

This boils down to a battle between pharmacists' personal views and patients' rights. Take it to its logical conclusions. What about the pharmacist who does not approve of medications for HIV or certain painkillers?

The rules seem designed to guard against too many nonclinical judgments. If a pharmacy has demand for a drug and has it in stock, then the drug should still be dispensed. Rural communities may have one pharmacy. Pharmacy shopping can be an ordeal. This ruling is ripe for reversal.

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