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Phoenix-area woman denied miscarriage drug files complaint

The Walgreens where Nicole Arteaga was allegedly refused service by a Walgreens pharmacist who denied her prescription because it was against his ethics, shown Monday, June 25, 2018, in Peoria, Ariz. The Arizona State Board of Pharmacy will investigate the complaint of a woman who says a Walgreens pharmacist denied to give her medication necessary to end her pregnancy after her baby stopped developing. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — The Arizona State Board of Pharmacy said it will investigate the complaint of a woman who said a Walgreens pharmacist in Peoria refused to fill a prescription based on his ethical beliefs.

Nicole Mone Arteaga shared details of the incident on Facebook late last week and also filed a complaint with Walgreens corporate office.

In the viral post, Arteaga said she was publicly humiliated when the pharmacist, within earshot of several other customers, refused to fill the prescription for medication that would terminate her failed pregnancy. He cited “ethical beliefs” in denying her the prescription.

Arteaga wrote that she had wanted the pregnancy, but her doctor had told her the baby was no longer developing. Her options were a surgical procedure or a prescription medication to induce miscarriage. She opted for the medication.

She left the store in tears with her 7-year-old, she wrote.

Kam Gandhi, executive director at the pharmacy board, said Monday the agency hadn’t spoken to Arteaga or the pharmacist yet, but planned to start a full investigation before the board’s next meeting in August.

The pharmacist, who was the only one on duty, Walgreens said, later transferred Arteaga’s prescription to another location, per policy.

On Monday, the company was tweeting replies to individuals who were outraged by Arteaga’s post.

Some customers said they were taking their prescription business elsewhere.

The company tweeted it had apologized to the patient about how the situation was handled. It also said it was looking into the matter further, while another message explained store policies.

“Our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection,” the tweet read.

“At the same time, they are also required to refer the prescription to another pharmacist or manager on duty to meet the patient’s needs in a timely manner.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM legal analyst Monica Lindstrom told Mac and Gaydos that Arizona was one of the only states in the nation that allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription based on their moral values.

The law specifically mentioned abortion medication or emergency contraception, and said medical professionals, such as pharmacists, must state their objection in writing, which could be open to interpretation.

“Does it have to be presented to the patient, does it have to be at the store, or does it have to be in the pharmacist’s personnel file?” Gandhi said.

“That’s what’s up in the air.”

Once the investigation was presented to the board, it can determine whether to dismiss the complaint or take further action.

That could include a type of warning letter, civil penalties, a voluntary surrender of license or continued education, Gandhi said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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