Teen girl denied medication refill under AZ’s new abortion law

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 7:48 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A 14-year-old Tucson girl was denied a refill of a life-saving prescription drug she had been taking for years just two days after Arizona’s new abortion law had taken effect.

Emma Thompson has debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, which have kept her in and out of the hospital for most of her life. She relies on methotrexate to help tame the effects of the disease. But methotrexate can also be used to end ectopic pregnancies - to induce an abortion - and that’s where the problem arises.

“As a mother who has had to deal with my child being very ill most of her life, I was scared, I was really worried,” said her mother, Kaitlin Preble. “I was shaking. I was in tears. I didn’t know what to do.”

The young girl’s physician, Dr. Deborah Jane Power, said, “This was the first pediatric patient that had been denied her medication.” Dr. Power admits she was angry, which spilled over into a Twitter post where she said “Welcome to Arizona: She was denied because she’s female.” She said she was “livid.”

The treatment for Emma has been years in the making. “This child’s care has taken a lot of work to get her to a place her pain is totally manageable, she can attend school in person,” said Dr. Power.

And that’s echoed by Emma’s mother. “It’s her first year and she’s in high school and it feels like a dream,” Preble said. “She’s not in a wheelchair, she has a social life and friends for the first time and a life all young people should have.”

That’s why there was so much anxiety for the 24 hours between being denied and finally getting the prescription approved. “I was scared, I was really scared,” Preble said. “If they deny this, then we’ll have to find a different medication and we don’t know if it’s going to work.”

Dr. Power says some older patients have been denied their medication, but never someone so young. And part of the surprise came because it happened so quickly after the territorial abortion law written in 1864 took effect. “My concern was [that] the pharmacist chose to not refill because methotrexate could be used to cause an abortion,” Dr. Power said. “And then the pharmacist would be responsible.”

Walgreens, where the prescription was denied, sent us this statement:

“Our focus is meeting the needs of our patients and making sure they have access to the medications they need, in compliance with applicable pharmacy laws and regulations. Trigger laws in various states require additional steps for dispensing certain prescriptions and apply to all pharmacies, including Walgreens. In these states, our pharmacists work closely with prescribers as needed, to fill lawful, clinically appropriate prescriptions. We provide ongoing training and information to help our pharmacists understand the latest requirements in their area, and with these supports, the expectation is they are empowered to fill lawful, clinically appropriate prescriptions.”

The American College of Rheumatology has issued warnings to rheumatologists to be aware of the issues which may come up when prescribing methotrexate. Those warnings can be found here.

Meanwhile, because of the abortion laws, change has come to Arizona. “Do we know that now causing my patient to delay access to medical care or sometimes potentially no access to medication what kind of change will happen,” Dr. Power said. “It’s really frustrating and I’m very angry.”