Federal court says pharmacists can use independent judgement in filling prescriptions

(ABC 6 News) – The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with Albert Lea pharmacies in a court case surrounding medications intended to treat or prevent COVID-19.

The case dates back to 2021, when the pharmacies refused to fill prescriptions for ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine because they didn’t think they were appropriate for the condition, based on the guidance from every major medical authority and government agency that addressed the issue.

A Missouri physician prescribed the medication to William and Karla Salier, a Minnesota couple suffering from COVID-19.

When they tried to get these prescriptions filled at Walmart, then Hy-Vee in Albert Lea, pharmacists at both locations refused to fill them.

The Saliers argued by not filling their prescriptions, the pharmacies violated their right to self-determination and what they could do with their own bodies.

“When it comes to medication, a pharmacist is not a doctor,” said Diane Marks, a woman from Rochester who agrees with the Saliers. She says if a doctor prescribes a medication, their patient should be able to get it.

“My daughter is a pharmacist. Do I wonder about her career because of this recent law that’s come about? Most definitely,” said Marks.

However, the federal appeals court sided with the pharmacies, ruling that pharmacists have the right to “exercise independent judgment in filling prescriptions.”

“They should not sit there and police, so to say, the prescription or the amount of the prescription that that patient should have,” said Marks.

The court affirmed that a Minnesota healthcare provider cannot be forced to participate in a plan of care that goes against their professional judgment. Meaning, under the law, even if a doctor prescribes you a medication, you may not be able to get it.

ABC 6 News reached out to the Hy-Vee and Walmart pharmacies in Albert Lea, but they were not able to provide a statement at this time. We also reached out to the corporate offices, but they did not respond to requests for comment.