Walgreens Continues Gender Discrimination at the Pharmacy

Couples who work together to make healthy decisions about contraception should be supported. So why is it that local Walgreens in Texas have repeatedly refused to sell contraception to men, despite corporate headquarters policy and federal guidelines to the contrary?

That is exactly what happened to Adam Drake, who tried to purchase emergency contraception from a Walgreens in Houston. He was shocked when the pharmacy unequivocally denied him the product because he is a man. When he complained to the store manager, she stood by the pharmacist’s decision.

What happened to Mr. Drake is very troubling: no one should face gender discrimination at the pharmacy. But the incident is even more troubling given that we had already asked Walgreens earlier this year to ensure that its stores sell emergency contraception to men after we learned that men in Texas and Mississippi were prohibited from buying the product. Back in June, we received an encouraging response from Walgreens headquarters saying that it distributed a bulletin to all its stores telling them that emergency contraception can be sold to men, and that a male customer who asks to purchase emergency contraception need not be “accompanied by a female, and does not need to identify the individual for whom he is purchasing the product.” Apparently, the Walgreens that Mr. Drake went to did not get that message.

So it is time for Walgreens to do more. This week, we asked Walgreens to train its pharmacists and store managers, and send secret shoppers to its stores (PDF) to ensure that corporate policy is followed. We’ve also asked ACLU of Texas members to sign a petition to tell their local Walgreens that they must sell emergency contraception to men.

Luckily, Mr. Drake was able to purchase emergency contraception from a competitor — a pharmacy that doesn’t discriminate based on gender, and a pharmacy that knows that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved emergency contraception for sale behind the pharmacy counter for men and women ages seventeen and older. Time is of the essence when accessing emergency contraception. Experts stress that emergency contraception is most effective the sooner a woman takes it, and its effectiveness decreases every 12 hours. It is therefore crucial that a customer can get access to emergency contraception as soon as it is needed.

Our hope is that couples will not face gender discrimination at the pharmacy, and will not face unnecessary obstacles in accessing emergency contraception. Let’s hope that Walgreens steps up and turns our hopes into a reality.

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  • cmarie

    Well, I guess the most likely reason is this scenario:  Man learns his wife/girlfriend is pregnant.  Man realizes if girlfriend doesn’t agree to an abortion he will be responsible for child support for 18 years.  Man requests and fills perscription, slips it into her food or drink, woman loses pregnancy, woman sues Walgreens for giving him a perscription which could not possibly have been for him to consume.  They don’t want these pills in the wrong hands and they have a responsiblity to educate the consumer of risks/side effects of the medication.  I’m sure all those factors contributed to Walgreens decision.

  • squirrely-girl

    …woman loses pregnancy…

    When will people WAKE UP and realize that this isn’t how emergency contraception works. Seriously, it’s downright ignorant. EC functions by preventing ovulation NOT preventing implantation or aborting an established pregnancy. By the time a person realizes they are pregnant it is TOO LATE for EC. 

  • crowepps

    Man gets MAP over the counter, slips MAP into girlfriend’s food or drink and as all scientific evidence has established MAP has ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER on an established pregnancy.


    Geez, your assumption that men hate kids, that money is ALWAYS more important to men than anything else, and that men are so untrustworthy they would secretly slip drugs to their girlfriends certainly reveals your extremely poor opinion of men.  Are you one of those radicals who insists all women should become lesbians?

  • dbsm

    if BCPs and DepoProvera were OTC, would men be able to purchase them, too? we can’t act like these things are Tylenol and Motrin and right patient right prescription should apply even if EC is OTC, shouldn’t it?

  • crowepps

    Any OVER THE COUNTER drug should be available for purchase by any person who walks into the store.  That’s what OVER THE COUNTER means.  If a woman asks her brother or boyfriend or her husband to stop and pick up her birth control pills for her, what possible business is that of the store clerk? 

  • plume-assassine

    Also, I don’t think anyone could administer a DepoProvera shot to someone unless they are at least a nurse or pharmacy tech, so the woman would have to be there for that. They could have “clinic days” at the pharmacy like they do with Flu shots, though, for anyone interested in long-term contraception. As another comparison, there are a few states that allow you to purchase insulin OTC, and anybody can go in and pick it up with syringes and needles included, so, who knows.  But we are talking about EC and other birth control pills, not an injection.