In the past, many concerns have been raised on the issue of some community pharmacists refusing to sell emergency hormonal contraception (EHC), resulting in many women reporting difficulty in obtaining the medication. Although many do believe that pharmacists may conscientiously object to EHC, however, little is known on whether certain factors may have an impact on their role of providing EHC. This report will summarise an article produced by Cooper et al, which was based on my clinical question, however with exploration of the ‘ethical, religious and factual beliefs of pharmacists and their potential effect upon the availability of EHC in UK pharmacies.’1Semi-structured interviews with 23 pharmacists from two counties in the north of England were carried out between January 2004 and July 2005 – in order to obtain qualitative data for the research.They found that most pharmacists had no ethical reasoning to refuse to sell EHC and so had no problem with dispensing the drug, however, ‘a range of concerns emerged in relation to selling EHC and three broad categories of pharmacist were identified: those who found selling EHC ethically unproblematic, those who were completely opposed to selling EHC and those who decided contingently and supplied EHC in some situations but not others.’1The category which found selling EHC as ethically unproblematic included 16 of the 23 pharmacists interviewed. However, there were still presence of ethical and religious concerns in providing EHC; some argued that ‘it was important for a woman to be able to decide upon her treatment.
‘1 One of the pharmacists reason for this view was based on the belief that by making judgement for women, it may lead to the existence of “…another person in the world who isn’t wanted.”1 Although religion may have been important, however, pharmacists with religious faith argued that ‘their professional responsibilities took precedence.’1 The second category included four pharmacists who ‘believed there were only certain circumstances in which EHC sales were justified.’1 and this was with the exception of the general role of a pharmacists not to supply certain medication by law for reasons including a patient either being under age or a patient being pregnant and so medication may be harmful. The view of these pharmacists was based on factors including the location of the pharmacy and also the age of the patient.
Some believed that ‘older customers were genuine and less likely to try to obtain EHC repeatedly…’1The final category ‘were completely opposed to the sale of EHC’1 as pharmacists had high ‘ethical concern and anxiety’1 because they believed EHC ‘to be a form of abortion’.1 In conclusion, it is quite obvious that it is the pharmacist’s role to provide EHC as it is their responsibilities as health professionals to contribute to public health.1 However, it is also obvious that the role of a pharmacist in supplying EHC may be affected by many factors including religious, ethical views and type of patient i.e. whether an adult or teen.