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April 18, 2005

Gov. Blagojevich moves to make emergency contraceptives rule permanent

SPRINGFIELD – Today Governor Rod R Blagojevich’s administration filed a permanent rule with the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to ensure its emergency action protecting women’s access to contraceptives continues once the 150-day emergency rule expires.  The permanent rule, like the emergency rule filed on April 1, requires drug stores that stock and dispense contraceptives to fill birth control prescriptions without delay.


“Pharmacies have an obligation to carry out the health care needs of their customers.  Filling prescriptions for birth control is about protecting a woman’s right to have access to medicine her doctor says she needs.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  We will vigorously protect that right,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  


The permanent rule language clears up confusion raised by national and state pharmacy associations, as well as the members of the Pharmacy Review Board about the emergency rule’s possible impact on pharmacists’ other responsibilities.  The permanent rule language clarifies that it does not conflict with the responsibilities of a pharmacist to make sure that any prescribed drug doesn’t have adverse health consequences based on other drugs being used by a patient.  The Pharmacy Practice Act specifically requires pharmacists to conduct prospective drug utilization review to protect patients.  Under the Governor’s rule, that requirement remains intact.  


The rule also clarifies that ‘without delay’ means that pharmacies should treat contraceptive prescription holders the same as other clients waiting for any other prescription; they cannot cause unnecessary delays to patients seeking contraceptives. 


Last week, the Board of Pharmacy met and ratified the decision of Gov. Blagojevich to file an emergency rule requiring pharmacies that sell contraceptives to dispense all such prescriptions promptly.  It also endorsed, as required by statute, the provisions in the permanent rule filed with JCAR.


The emergency rule will be in effect for 150 days unless JCAR votes by a 3/5 majority of the twelve-member panel (eight votes) to suspend that emergency rule.  Meanwhile, the rule filed today will replace the emergency rule currently in effect after the JCAR review process.


Once a rule has been filed with the Secretary of State, there is a 45-day 1st Notice period, during which industry groups, advocates and other concerned members of the public may file comments or request a public hearing.  During the 2nd Notice period, also 45 days long, the rule, and any modifications or amendments, will be reviewed by JCAR. JCAR can request additional clarification or information from the Department that must be supplied during JCAR’s review.  At the end of that time, if JCAR takes no action, the rule becomes permanent and any further changes must be filed through a new rulemaking process.  In order to stop a rule from becoming permanent, 3/5 of panel must vote to overturn the rule.


The text of the rule follows:

j) Duty of Division I Pharmacy to Dispense Contraceptives

1) Upon receipt of a valid, lawful prescription for a contraceptive, a pharmacy must dispense the contraceptive, or a suitable alternative permitted by the prescriber, to the patient or the patient’s agent without delay, consistent with the normal timeframe for filling any other prescription. If the contraceptive, or a suitable alternative, is not in stock, the pharmacy must obtain the contraceptive under the pharmacy's standard procedures for ordering contraceptive drugs not in stock, including the procedures of any entity that is affiliated with, owns, or franchises the pharmacy. However, if the patient prefers, the prescription must either be transferred to a local pharmacy of the patient’s choice or returned to the patient, as the patient directs.

2) For the purposes of this subsection (j), the term “contraceptive” shall refer to all FDA-approved drugs or devices that prevent pregnancy.

3)  Nothing in this subsection (j) shall interfere with a pharmacist's screening for potential drug therapy problems due to therapeutic duplication, drug-disease contraindications, drug-drug interactions (including serious interactions with nonprescription or over-the-counter drugs), drug-food interactions, incorrect drug dosage or duration of drug treatment, drug-allergy interactions or clinical abuse or misuse, pursuant to 225 ILCS 85/3 (q).

An explanation of the rule and its enforcement is posted on the IDFPR website at: http://www.idfpr.com/emergencyruleguidance.asp.


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