A Georgia pharmacist has refused to dispense pharmaceuticals, maintaining that filling prescriptions for allergy medicine, antibiotics, and erectile dysfunction treatments violates his religion. The pharmacist says that while he is still willing to sell vitamins and topical skin creams, distributing pharmaceuticals constitutes a denial of God's role as a healer.
Pray for your soul and call me in the morning
By Hermione Slatkin, health correspondent
MARIETTA, GA—When Bud Fisher stopped by a suburban Atlanta pharmacy to fill a prescription for a troublesome case of athlete's foot, the pharmacist told him something he'd never heard before: no. "He told me I'd have to take my business elsewhere because for him to give me my foot cream would be a violation of his religious beliefs," says Mr. Fisher, who has since had his prescription for Naftin, the only Rx allylamine cream and gel, filled elsewhere.
Just say no
It's a growing trend behind the counters of the nation's drugstores: licensed pharmacists who refuse to distribute pharmaceuticals for religious reasons. In recent months, pharmacists in Wisconsin, Illinois and Texas have all stood their ground and sent pill-seeking customers packing. At least one drugstore chain, Walgreens, now allows pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions.
Pharmacies latest 'drug-free zones'
But Marietta pharmacist James "Lou" Clements is the first known professional to refuse to distribute any medicines on the grounds that doing so would violate his deeply held personal beliefs. What's behind Mr. Clements' decision to stop meting out prescription pills, creams and syrups? He explains that his goal is to put a stop to practice of prescribing quickie medical fixes like antibiotics when prayer and fasting can be just as powerful.
Most diseases caused by sin
To make his case, Mr. Clements points to the Biblical figure of Asa, King of Judah, who was afflicted with a disease of the foot. "He only consulted physicians," notes Mr. Clements. "He had a bad case of foot disease, but he didn't seek help from God, and two years later he was dead." Reading about Asa's story and others, says the pharmacist, convinced him that modern medicine probably isn't the answer to the health woes of most Americans. "The physicians may have been able to treat the symptoms of Asa's problem but they couldn't get at the sin that was causing the disease."
Pharmacy students turning to Bible
While Mr. Clements' deeply held personal beliefs make him unique in his profession, a growing number of pharmacists in training say that they too plan to avoid prescribing pharmaceuticals for religious reasons. A number of colleges of pharmacy around the country now allow students to sit out classes on pharmaceutical education, letting them give topics like drug interaction, dosages and side effects a miss, if such topics violate their religious beliefs. Instead, the students study and prepare Biblical remedies, including a paste of mud and spit to cure blindness.
From filling 'scrips to filling time
For Mr. Clements, the biggest challenge these days is finding enough to do. While he still stands behind the pharmacy counter, clad in a crisp white jacket, he's no longer busy weighing, measuring, and mixing drugs and other medicinal compounds. Instead, he spends his days straightening displays of reading glasses and other non-prescription items, occasionally rifling through a magazine and talking to customers. "If you need vitamins or maybe an anti-wrinkle cream I can get it for you," he says. "As long as it's not prescription. That's where I draw the line."