Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Bans on abortion are complicating access to drugs for cancer, arthritis, ulcers, other diseases

Some chronically ill women, because of legal bans on abortion, are facing questions about critical medications that could be used to end a pregnancy.

That conclusion is drawn in a story by Katie Shepherd and Frances Stead Sellers in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post.

"The sudden imposition of anti-abortion laws [after the reversal of Roe v. Wade] has left patients, doctors and pharmacists wading through a minefield of treatments and legal and ethical dilemmas related to women's health care — even in situations…that have nothing to do with pregnancy," Shepherd and Sellers write.

Medicines that treat conditions from cancer to autoimmune disease to ulcers, the piece notes, "can also end a pregnancy or cause birth defects and, as a result, "doctors and pharmacists in more than a dozen states with strict abortion restrictions must suddenly navigate whether and when to order such drugs because they could be held criminally liable and lose their licenses for prescribing some of them to pregnant women."

Even if they could show their patients suffer from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, the Post story goes on, "some doctors worry they could be prosecuted for prescribing such drugs to a patient with an unintended pregnancy."

Such patients, Shepherd and Sellers continue, "are also at greater risk because they can no longer seek abortions in their home states should they accidentally become pregnant while taking such drugs — no matter how grievous the injuries to the developing fetus."

Dr. Traci Poole
The article quotes Dr. Traci Poole, faculty member at Belmont University College of Pharmacy in Nashville and a practicing pharmacist, as asking, "If you are of childbearing age, are you going to be denied medications that could potentially interfere with a pregnancy?"

The story also says that physicians and pharmacists acknowledge "being blindsided by the speed of changes to state laws," and say they're making change to their practices to protect themselves against liability.

CVS and Walgreens and other major drugstore chains are instructing employees to delay filling prescriptions until they can validate their use to ensure they'll not be used to terminate pregnancies.

The Shepherd-Sellers article also quotes Jack Resneck Jr., president of the American Medical Association, who told federal lawmakers last month that doctors "have been placed in an impossible situation — trying to meet their ethical duties to place patient health and well-being first, while attempting to comply with vague, restrictive, complex, and conflicting state laws that interfere in the practice of medicine and jeopardize the health of patients."

More information about laws and their unintended consequences is available in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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