ATLANTA, Georgia (CBS46) — Some Georgians have trouble picking up medications prescribed for them by licensed physicians. It is an unintended consequence of the US Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade and makes access to essential medicines more difficult.
Atlanta resident Cindi Gatton takes Misoprostol to prevent stomach ulcers, which can be caused by long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs, which she also takes for her arthritis.
“After my second ulcer, I asked my GP if he would be happy to prescribe this drug,” Gatton said. “He did, and I’ve been taking it pretty much every day since.”
Gatton never had a problem filling her prescription at her Publix pharmacy in Decatur until a few weeks ago.
“The pharmacy technician said we should get additional information from your doctor,” Gatton said, “and then he told me we need the doctor to tell us the diagnosis they’re prescribing.”
In addition to preventing stomach ulcers, Misoprostol can also be used to complete miscarriages or induce abortions.
Because of Georgia’s controversial “heartbeat law,” most abortions are now banned in the state after about six weeks of pregnancy. However, Gatton said she has passed childbearing age, and even if she wasn’t, she believes her privacy has been violated.
“If a licensed physician writes out a prescription, a pharmacy can and should fill it,” she said. “That is the duty of the pharmacist.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mississippi’s abortion law banning the procedure after 15 weeks. That decision, announced on June 24, essentially overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 court ruling that stated that a pregnant woman has the right to choose an abortion without undue government restrictions.
Now it seems that pharmacists, who are responsible for the prescriptions they fill, are scrambling.
According to patient associations such as the Global Healthy Living Foundation, dozens of women are also having trouble getting methotrexate — another drug that treats arthritis but can also be used to terminate a pregnancy — at the pharmacy.
Zoe Rothblatt of the Global Healthy Living Foundation tells us, “Many of our members – women only – have been asked to validate their diagnosis, especially in states with anti-abortion trigger laws, despite having prescriptions written by their health care providers. Our members are afraid that they will not be able to get their medicines and even a small delay can cause harm.”
CBS46 Investigates sent four emails to Publix asking for new policies after Roe v. Wade’s undoing. All four went unanswered.
Meanwhile, Fraser Engerman, a Walgreens spokesperson said:Trigger laws in several states require additional steps for dispensing certain prescriptions and apply to all pharmacies, including Walgreens. In these states, our pharmacists work closely with prescribers where necessary to fill legal, clinically appropriate prescriptions. We provide ongoing training and information to help our pharmacists understand the latest requirements in their area, and with this support it is expected that they will be empowered to fill legal, clinically appropriate prescriptions.”
Amy Thibault, a spokesperson for CVS Pharmacy, said:Our top priority is to ensure safe and timely access to medicines for our patients and we are committed to supporting women’s healthcare. At the same time, laws in certain states restrict the provision of drugs to induce an abortion. These laws, some of which include criminal penalties, have forced us to require pharmacists in these states — which Georgia does NOT belong to — to validate that the intended indication is not to terminate a pregnancy before taking a prescription for methotrexate or misoprostol. can fill in. Pharmacists are in the middle at this point. We will continue to focus on delivering care to our patients while complying with state laws and federal guidelines that continue to evolve. To ensure patients have quick and easy access to medicines, we encourage healthcare providers to include their diagnosis in the prescriptions they write.”
Some Atlanta OB/GYNs believe Georgia’s abortion law will delay patients seeking care. “So, under this law, we’re not able to care for those patients, and that’s really egregious,” said Dr. Megan Cohen.
During a recent panel sponsored by the Democratic Party of Georgia, Dr. Cohen on the restrictions Georgia’s abortion ban could create for women who miscarry.
“The drugs we use to treat a miscarriage are the exact same ones we use for a drug abortion, so not only will it slow people down from getting in, but it’ll also limit our ability to treat people.” who is in the midst of a miscarriage,” she added.
Atlanta OB/GYN Dr. Tiffany Hailstorks believes women of color will be disproportionately affected.
“We’re going to see communities that are already disenfranchised and already having trouble accessing care get more problems and that gap widens, with these restrictions,” said Dr. Hailstorks. “We’re going to see worse health outcomes for mothers and for babies.”
“It’s unfortunate that it’s so misunderstood as to scare women,” said Sue Liebel, state policy director at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
Anti-abortion activists like Sue Liebel disagree, saying doctors shouldn’t worry about prescribing these drugs as long as they don’t do it to induce abortion.
“This is not intended to influence drugs used for other purposes. This is intended to affect drugs used to induce abortion,” Liebel added.
But Gatton believes the concerns of doctors and patients are justified, and she doesn’t like to get involved in politics in the pharmacy.
“This just seems like a burden on an important part of the health care system that is not needed,” she said.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services recently reminded pharmacists to follow federal civil rights laws when dispensing medications. Refusing to provide a prescription because of the potential to terminate a pregnancy may violate the laws against gender discrimination.
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