Texas pharmacists hesitant to prescribe drugs amid abortion ban

Many pharmacists in Texas are hesitant to fill prescriptions for abortion drugs — even if they're used for other medical reasons — for fear of civil lawsuits or criminal prosecution under the state's strict abortion ban, Slate reported May 24.

Texas' abortion ban, which took effect last September, allows residents to sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion after a heartbeat is detected, including a physician or ride-share driver. The law has stoked concerns among pharmacists that they may be held liable for dispensing a drug if someone uses it for an illicit abortion. 

"There's definitely hesitation," Ashley Garling, PharmD, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas College of Pharmacy in Austin, told Slate. "It's turning to a colleague and saying, 'How do you feel about filling this? Would you fill this?'"

Natalie Crawford, an OB-GYN and fertility physician based in Austin, said many pharmacists in her area "do not want to fill" the drug misoprostol. While the medication is used for medication abortions, Dr. Crawford said she commonly uses the drug to soften patients' cervixes before medical procedures unrelated to abortion. 

If a prescription for misoprostol comes into a pharmacy, and the diagnosis code does not include its intended use, many pharmacists opt to call the prescriber to document the diagnosis in the pharmacy records for insurance purposes and to protect against potential lawsuits, according to Slate.

Some physicians say these administrative hoops are causing care delays for patients. 

"If they don't speak with someone, or if the diagnosis code does not match their allowed codes, they will deny the prescription," an OB-GYN based in Houston who asked to use the pseudonym Jamie, told Slate. "I have also run into issues with pharmacies not being able to reach us on Friday or after hours or on the weekends when our offices are closed, and denying the prescription."

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