Officials of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Friday the company will reverse
its earlier policy and stock emergency contraception pills in all of its pharmacies effective March 20, saying the giant retailer could not justify being the country's only major pharmacy chain not to carry the morning-after pill.
The announcement comes after Massachusetts last month ordered the world's largest retailer to stock the so-called Plan B pill, following a lawsuit by three Boston women against Wal-Mart.
Illinois also requires pharmacies to carry the prescription drug, and those are the only two states where Wal-Mart has so far stocked emergency contraception.
"We expect more states to require us to sell emergency contraceptives in the months ahead," said Ron Chomiuk, vice president of pharmacy for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart.
"Because of this, and the fact that this is an FDA-approved product, we feel it is difficult to justify being the country's only major pharmacy chain not selling it," Chomiuk said in a statement.
Chomiuk said the company will maintain its conscientious objection policy, which it said is consistent with the tenets of the American Pharmaceutical Association. The policy, except where prohibited by law, allows any Wal-Mart or Sam's Club pharmacy employee who does not feel comfortable dispensing a prescription to refer customers to another pharmacist or pharmacy.
Wal-Mart has more than 3,700 pharmacies in the United States, it said.
It has previously said it "chooses not to carry many products for business reasons," but has refused to elaborate. A Wal-Mart lawyer in the Massachusetts lawsuit said the company did not believe that emergency contraception was commonly prescribed or within the "usual needs of the community."
Plan B contains a higher dose of the hormones in regular birth control pills. It cuts the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if used within 72 hours of unprotected sex. The earlier it's taken, the more effective it is.
*from the AP*
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