CVS Pharmacy has similar policy to Walgreens, allows pharmacists to deny birth control prescriptions
CVS Pharmacy has a similar policy to beleaguered competitor Walgreens, which allows pharmacists to deny prescriptions that conflict with their religious or moral beliefs, such as birth control or condoms.
Walgreens came under fire last week when customers documented their issues filling prescriptions for birth control or buying products for other reproductive choices like condoms.
Those examples went viral on social media under the hashtag #BoycottWalgreens.
CVS is the nation's largest pharmacy service by market share according to consumer data provider Statista, eclipsing Rite Aid, Walgreens and Walmart and over a dozen other brands. CVS has a market capitalization of $124.86 billion.
Amy Thibault, the lead director of external communications for CVS, told USA TODAY that the company has policies in place to ensure no patient is denied access to medication prescribed by a physician based on a staff member's individual beliefs.
"Under federal law, we must reasonably accommodate a religious conviction, and in certain states a moral or ethical conviction, that may prevent a pharmacist or pharmacy technician from dispensing specific medications," Thibault said in a statement.
Thibault said an objecting pharmacist must request an accommodation from CVS ahead of time and make arrangements to ensure patient care, either from a different pharmacist or elsewhere. Most states require that care providers who decline to provide services or prescriptions must find an alternate option for patients.
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CVS declined to comment on whether its policy applies nationwide or only in the six states that require belief exemptions for pharmacists and other care providers. Those states are Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi and South Dakota – and they don't require pharmacists to find an alternate way to fill any denied prescriptions elsewhere.
CVS also declined to say whether it has enacted its internal policies to abide by the "conscience clause," a part of one of the so-called Church Amendments, which passed in 1992 and allows physicians and pharmacists to refuse to provide services that they say are not allowed by their religious or moral code.
That clause is frequently cited by businesses as a requirement that they allow employees conscientious leeway in providing products that conflict with their faith.
CVS also declined to comment on whether pharmacists' who opt out of filling a birth control prescription have to route the patient to a different pharmacy that can.
Walgreens has a policy in place that allows its pharmacists to step away from a prescription if the pharmacist has a religious or moral objection, but they are required to call a manager or someone else to complete the transaction.
Abigail Martin took to TikTok earlier in the month saying the pharmacist wouldn’t refill her birth control despite having refills available. Nick Pentz and his partner Jess were denied the sale of condoms after the pharmacist said “it’s against my faith.”
Fraser Engerman, a senior director of external relations for Walgreens, said instances like this are very rare, but the pharmacy has policies set up to provide care for customers while also respecting employees' religious and moral beliefs.
“In the instance a team member has a religious or moral conviction that prevents them from meeting a customer need, we require them to refer the customer to another employee or manager on duty who can complete the transaction,” he said in an email statement.
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CVS faced controversy back in 2019 when The Pill Club alleged that one of its subsidiaries, pharmacy benefits manager CVS Caremark, had raised rates and was denying birth control.
According to Newsweek, the birth control delivery startup said CVS Caremark was cutting payment rates for mail-order birth control pills to make it more expensive and inaccessible for women who aren't able to get to a pharmacy each month.
The hashtag #CVSDeniesCare then began to trend on social media, with Twitter users talking about how important the home-delivery service was for them.
CVS released a statement to Newsweek in 2019, saying that the accusations The Pill Club made against it were misleading.
"The Pill Club continues to be a participating pharmacy in our network and there is no impact on its customers' access to contraceptives," the statement said. "We are committed to providing access to women's health care and it is irresponsible for The Pill Club to suggest otherwise in an effort to maximize their profits at the expense of our PBM clients."
Thibault did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether or not CVS has continued the policies some consumers took issue with in 2019.