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CVS, Walgreens to Start Selling Abortion Pill in Some States
  • Posted March 1, 2024

CVS, Walgreens to Start Selling Abortion Pill in Some States

CVS and Walgreens announced Friday that they will start dispensing the abortion pill mifepristone this month.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has certified the nation's two largest pharmacy chains to dispense mifepristone, and they plan to make the medication available first in states where abortion is legal.

The chains will not dispense the medication by mail, they told news outlets.

Walgreens plans to start dispensing the abortion pill within the next week at a small number of pharmacies in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and Illinois, according to the company's website.

"We are beginning a phased rollout in select locations to allow us to ensure quality, safety and privacy for our patients, providers and team members,"company spokesman Fraser Engerman told the New York Times.

CVS will first make the pill available in Massachusetts and Rhode Island pharmacies, the company told the Times.

Both companies said they will not dispense in states where the law is unclear, but they do plan to eventually expand into states where pharmacists are legally allowed to dispense mifepristone.

President Joe Biden immediately praised the announcement.

"Today is an important milestone in ensuring access to mifepristone, a drug that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective for more than 20 years,"Biden said in a statement.

"With major retail pharmacy chains newly certified to dispense medication abortion, many women will soon have the option to pick up their prescription at a local, certified pharmacy -- just as they would for any other medication,"Biden added.

The chains received their mifepristone certifications under new guidelines updated by the FDA in January 2023.

Prior to the FDA's action, only certified health professionals could dispense the drug, and then only directly to a patient during a visit to a medical facility. 

The pandemic first prompted a loosening of this requirement. People were allowed to order mifepristone through mail-order pharmacies, after the FDA said it would waive the in-person requirement.

"I encourage all pharmacies that want to pursue this option to seek certification,"Biden said.

The announcement comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments that could restrict the availability of mifepristone.

Abortion opponents sued the FDA to remove mifepristone from the market, but an appeals court limited its ruling to restricting the distribution of mifepristone by mail and requiring an in-person doctor visit for its prescription.

If the Supreme Court upholds that decision, Walgreens and CVS could become important sites for women to access mifepristone after getting a prescription from a doctor or clinic.

Medication abortion typically requires two separate drugs, according to Planned Parenthood.

Mifepristone stops the pregnancy from growing by blocking a hormone called progesterone. Then a second medicine called misoprostol, taken within 48 hours, prompts cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus. Misoprostol is a widely available generic drug.

Taking misoprostol alone works to end a pregnancy 85% to 95% of the time, depending on how far along a woman is in her pregnancy, Planned Parenthood added.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about mifepristone.

SOURCES: Walgreens, statement, March 1, 2024; White House, statement, March 1, 2024; New York Times, CNN, U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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