A 14-year-old girl was denied arthritis medication as part of Arizona’s abortion ban
Emma Thompson was finally able to get her prescription filled, but the delay highlights the medical complications some patients face in states with strict abortion rules. Although drugs are not prescribed to terminate a pregnancy, the June reversal of Roe vs. Wade has thrown pharmacists, patients and doctors into a “constant juggling act,” Power said, balancing medical care with changing policies and potential legal ramifications.
“I don’t think everyone understands what the ramifications of such a broad and sweeping anti-abortion law are and how many other women are affected by it,” she added. “For example, how can we decide that women cannot have this medicine that men can have? It is gender discriminatory. And how can you make a law that does not allow me to provide quality care to my patients? »
Abortion ban complicates access to drugs for cancer, arthritis and even ulcers
Throughout Emma’s life, rheumatoid arthritis – an inflammatory disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy tissue in joints – has resulted in prolonged hospital stays, clinical trials and simply ” too much pain to have a normal life,” said her mother, Kaitlin Préble. For 10 years, her daughter’s doctors experimented with different doses of methotrexate, finally hitting the right amount about a year ago that allows Emma to thrive, go to school and “just be a normal teenager,” Preble said.
All of that seemed to be in jeopardy on September 25, when Preble checked her Walgreens app to see if Emma’s prescriptions were ready. Instead of a green light saying they could be picked up, a message popped up saying his methotrexate refill had been declined.
“It didn’t even give the reason,” Preble said. “He just said I had to call my doctor.”
Still, Preble said she had a clue that the state’s new abortion ban — which dates back to the 19th century and bans the procedure except to save the pregnant person life – had something to do with it. Her suspicions were confirmed the next day, when Preble went to the pharmacy “and made a big deal inside,” she said.
At first, no one explained why her daughter was unable to get a drug that was “crucial to her health,” Preble said. Then she pressed a pharmacy technician for answers.
“The pharmacist said she denied it because Emma was 14,” which is considered childbearing age, Preble said. “The pharmacy technician then asked, ‘Well, have you looked at his story? She’s been on this medicine for a long time,” and the pharmacist said, “No,” which I think was very important. »
All the while, Preble was shaking and crying: “I understand that pharmacists are afraid because they don’t want to assume anything. But it is extremely unfair to put a child through this unpredictable situation. And we shouldn’t have to go through all those steps to get a drug.
In a statement to The Post, a spokesperson for Walgreens said that while the company cannot discuss individual patients, “new laws in various states require additional steps to dispense certain prescriptions and apply to all pharmacies, including Walgreens”.
“In these states, our pharmacists work closely with prescribers as needed, to fill legal and clinically appropriate prescriptions,” the spokesperson said. “We provide ongoing education and information to help our pharmacists understand the latest requirements in their field.”
Patients across the country are facing similar situations as more drugs are reviewed. Many drugs are teratogens or drugs that can cause fetal abnormalities and miscarriages if taken by a pregnant woman. In some cases, women must prove they are taking birth control or submit pregnancy tests to pharmacies to fill prescriptions for drugs that can terminate a pregnancy, The Post previously reported.
When it comes to methotrexate – which is used or has been used by almost 60% of rheumatoid arthritis patients – medical groups have already said there are growing difficulties in accessing the drug. In Texas, for example, pharmacists are allowed to refuse to fill prescriptions for misoprostol and methotrexate under the state’s “heartbeat bill.” In July, the American College of Rheumatology urged pharmacists nationwide to provide the drugs “without delay and assuming they are not being used to terminate a pregnancy.”
“Methotrexate must remain accessible to people with rheumatic diseases, and legal safeguards must protect rheumatology professionals, pharmacists and patients from potential legal penalties,” the medical group said in a statement.
Federal authorities warn pharmacists against refusing abortion drugs
The new laws have also affected patients with other conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In August, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation said it “vehemently opposes” policies that prevent patients from accessing approved treatments.
“The decision on the most appropriate therapy for their condition should be made as a shared decision between a patient and their healthcare professional, based on medical evidence,” the organization wrote in a statement.
Although her daughter’s next refill isn’t due for a month, Preble said she’s already dreading the possibility of another denial.
“These laws are just too extreme and don’t take into account all the different scenarios people face,” she said.