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Duquesne University clarifies pharmacy policy

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Contrary to a report in last week's City Paper, a Hill District pharmacy operating under the auspices of Duquesne University does not, and will not, offer contraception or Plan B.

Customers seeking birth-control medication or devices from the Center for Pharmacy Services will be directed elsewhere, says J. Douglas Bricker, dean of the university's Mylan School of Pharmacy. Pharmacists at the Center, he says, would instead "find an appropriate referral for patients who would require those kinds of medications." 

Duquesne University staff did discuss contraceptives with a City Paper reporter. But university officials say the resulting story misrepresented those comments. The discussion was meant to be part of a broader, more academic discussion of contraceptive use, the officials say -- not as a statement about policies at the Center.  

Duquesne is a Catholic university, and that affiliation precludes the pharmacy from offering birth-control. "Every pharmacist has the personal responsibility to determine whether or not they want to dispense a medication," says Bricker. "They are not putting their moral values on that patient. They are still trying to serve that patient's needs by helping them to find a place in which they can get that medication filled."

Bricker acknowledges that in the Hill District, there is no pharmacy "in walking distance" for staff to recommend to customers. But he notes that the community has lacked a pharmacy for at least a decade, making access to almost any kind of medication problematic until now.   

Duquesne, Bricker said, is "filling a void that has been in that community for at least 10 years. Many medications have not been available to them -- or had been not as easy to obtain -- because they did not have a pharmacy there." The center also goes beyond merely filling pill bottles, he notes. Staff can, for example, measure blood pressure or glucose levels for those with diabetes -- services of special importance to senior citizens living in the area. "We're talking about not just the right drug for the right patient, but, 'OK, what else can we offer to make sure [the medication] is working?' 

"There's so much need in that neighborhood," Bricker says. "We are being as complete as we can."

City Paper apologizes for any confusion resulting from last week's report. 

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