London Drugs apologizes to customer denied morning-after pill by anti-choice pharmacist

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      Editor's note: London Drugs sent us this letter on April 18. The company is offering an apology to Sarah Arboleda and says it is investigating the incident in which she was denied access to the morning-after pill.

      Arboleda has also written a follow-up commentary piece. See: More thoughts on being denied the morning-after pill by a pharmacist.

      Setting the record straight on Plan B

      Re: Denied access to the morning-after pill by an anti-choice pharmacist, Georgia Straight, April 17, 2012

      Thank you, Sarah Arboleda and the Georgia Straight for bringing this incident to our attention. We would like to apologize and assure you we are taking this matter very seriously. Upon learning about Ms. Arboleda’s experience, London Drugs immediately began an internal investigation. Denying access and leaving Ms. Arboleda to believe she did not have a choice when choosing Plan B, was inappropriate and does not reflect London Drugs’ policy and our commitment to patient care.

      We would like to take this opportunity to provide clarity for Ms. Arboleda and all of our valued customers, on the sale and dispensing of emergency contraception products (Plan B and Norlevo).

      From the moment pharmacists were able to dispense emergency contraception without a doctor’s prescription, London Drugs had developed training, procedures and policies for our pharmacists to support patients’ requiring this medication and service.

      In addition to provincial college of pharmacy regulations and national pharmacy guidelines, London Drugs has a detailed policy and guidelines for our pharmacists, with respect to emergency contraception. First and foremost, our policy is to support and encourage pharmacists to provide emergency contraception services to patients who request emergency contraception.

      Having pharmacists deliver this valuable service allows women to have increased access to emergency contraception while providing the appropriate level of interaction with a trained health care professional.

      As per Ms. Arboleda’s article, Plan B is an over-the-counter drug. As a London Drugs process, patients are to ask the pharmacists for this emergency contraception. This initial contact is vital because every occurrence and need for Plan B is different. The timing of when to take Plan B is of paramount importance (must be used within 72 hours) and an understanding of the specific use is necessary for reaching the desired medical outcome. It is extremely important that individuals who require Plan B are properly counselled for the timing aspect as well as side effects such as vomiting - what to do should side effects occur (such as bleeding) - and additional physical symptoms that could result after taking Plan B.

      Ms. Arboleda’s experience provides reminder to all pharmacists that the manner in which we dispense Plan B must be done discreetly and in accordance with the Canadian Pharmacy Regulatory Association guidelines. There are professional guidelines currently in place to address the balance between the individual rights of pharmacists and the professional responsibility to their patients.

      In accordance with the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA), a pharmacist is permitted to object to the provision of a certain pharmacy product or service if it appears to conflict with the pharmacist’s view of morality or religious beliefs. Objections should be conveyed to the pharmacy manager - not to the patient - and the individual pharmacist must pre-arrange access to an alternate solution, enabling the patient to obtain the service or product they need. Any alternate means must minimize inconvenience or suffering to the patient. In Ms. Arboleda’s report, the pharmacist did not perform her duties in accordance with London Drugs’ policy and the NAPRA’s guidelines and we apologize for this. Our customers and patients health and safety are always of utmost concern. In addition to the investigation we are also reminding all of our pharmacists of their professional responsibilities and of our corporate policy on the provision of emergency contraception products and medical advice.

      Upon completion of our internal investigation, we will be submitting all findings to the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia, the regulatory authority. We encourage all of our customers and patients to provide London Drugs with valuable feedback at all times. We have operated as a family-owned pharmacy dedicated to the health and wellness of our customers since1945. Providing the best patient care is of utmost importance to London Drugs.

      I’m personally available to address Ms. Arboleda’s concerns and any additional patient concerns specific to this matter and can be reached through London Drugs customer service representatives by Phone: 1-888-991-2299 and Email:


      John Tse, vice president, pharmacy
      London Drugs



      Rob Roy

      Apr 19, 2012 at 11:12am

      A decent and thoughtful reply to an obvious error.

      Well done.

      Retired pharmacist

      Apr 19, 2012 at 12:19pm

      +1 to Rob Roy's comment above!

      Elizabeth King

      Apr 19, 2012 at 12:28pm

      I haven't read Ms. Arboleda's article and I personally have no issue with emergency contraception, despite being Catholic, but what about the pharmacist's rights? It seems to me Ms. Arboldeda could go anywhere else to receive help, this pharmacist has the right to not give out a medication that they honestly believe runs the chance of killing another human being. It is your religious right to not go against your own conscience.

      Patrick Chard

      Apr 19, 2012 at 12:43pm

      If the pharmacy in question had religious affiliations, then yes, applying their personal opinion to the patient care may carry some weight. As pharmacies are a service provided to the public, and medical care is free of bias from personal opinion or religion, the pharmacist made a very poor decision. If the pharmacist was uncomfortable prescribing Plan B, their supervisor should be aware of this, and they should be referring the patient to another pharmacist who can assist. At no time should this result in the patient being left unattended to.


      Apr 19, 2012 at 12:53pm

      To Elizabeth King,

      If this pharmacist chooses to work for the London Drugs company, then the pharmacist must abide by the policies set by said company, not to mention licensing stipulations by the College.

      It goes against all medical ethics to deny a patient a legal, over-the-counter medication based solely on one's own personal beliefs, thus violating the patient's rights.

      This situation could have easily been handled in a different manner, and as a result a formal apology was (appropriately) issued by the company.

      Sarah B

      Apr 19, 2012 at 1:10pm

      Elizabeth King, you are making the mistake that many people who are predisposed to calling a zygote a human life. Plan B prevents fertilization. Like contraception. This is why it has a time limit. If you're going to start to argue that contraception equals death, well, then it's time for women who value contraception to join hands and start singing "Every Sperm is Sacred".

      What is HAPPENING to women's rights in this country? Kudos to London Drugs. Be assured that the next time this happens, there will be picketing.


      Apr 19, 2012 at 1:18pm

      To Elizabeth King - I strongly disagree. The pharmacist, regardless of his personal convictions is working for London Drugs. London Drugs has a clear policy of how they deal with this medication, it is not up to the pharmacist to then put his own religious spin on it. If you knew anything about this medication then you would know it doesn't kill anything, it is a preventative measure. The same thing could be said about condoms and the pill, which the pharmacist obviously sells as well. Sure she could go to another pharmacy, but that's hardly the point.

      Judge not lest ye...

      Apr 19, 2012 at 1:21pm

      Hats off to London Drugs for providing a thorough and thoughtful response, proving themselves to be an organization which takes their resposibiities to the public seriously. The steps Mr. Tse outlines above are what the public should expect from corporations -- but does not alwasy see. I'm impressed both with the swiftness of their reaction and the detailed manner of addressing the concern from the public and the internal issues this implies. Frankly, they have turned an embarassment into kudos!


      Apr 19, 2012 at 1:21pm

      don't want to give out emergency contraception? don't be a pharmacist.


      Apr 19, 2012 at 1:33pm

      In my experience, this is a very typical response from London Drugs to any customer complaint - thoughtful, sensible and thorough. If all retailers followed their example, the world would be a much better place for consumers.

      And no - I don't work for London Drugs, nor do any members of my family.