Saturday, April 13

CVS and Walgreens to dispense the abortion pill mifepristone

CVS and Walgreens announced on Friday that they will soon start dispensing mifepristone, one of the two drugs used for medication abortions, in states where abortion is allowed. 

The two large pharmacy chains said they had received certification to dispense mifepristone, following a rule change the Food and Drug Administration finalized in January 2023.

The FDA decision broadened the availability of abortion pills by allowing pharmacies to dispense them to patients in person or or by mail, though neither CVS nor Walgreens are sending the medication by mail yet. Previously, patients were required to pick up the medication in person at a clinic, medical office or hospital.

Mifepristone is the first of two pills used in medication abortions. The second is misoprostol.

The FDA policy still requires pharmacies to meet certain requirements and complete a set of forms to get certified to sell mifepristone — that’s the process CVS and Walgreens have completed.

Walgreens said it will begin dispensing mifepristone pills within a week — consistent with state laws — in select locations in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.

“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,” Walgreens said in a statement.

CVS said it is “working with manufacturers and suppliers to secure the medication and are not yet dispensing it” in any of their pharmacies.

The statement added that pharmacies will begin to fill prescriptions in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the “weeks ahead,” then “will expand to additional states, where allowed by law, on a rolling basis.”

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CVS and Walgreens said mifepristone will be only dispensed at their physical pharmacy locations, though Walgreens added that home delivery via a courier service will be available for customers at select locations in accordance with state and federal laws.

Pharmacies in states where abortion is banned will not sell mifepristone.

Medication abortion made up more than half of all U.S. abortions in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that advocates for abortion access.

Boxes of mifepristone.Allen G. Breed / AP file

Following the CVS and Walgreens announcements, President Joe Biden issued a statement praising the change.

“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 said. “I encourage all pharmacies that want to pursue this option to seek certification.”

CVS and Walgreens’ announcements come as the Supreme Court is poised to hear oral arguments in March in a high-stakes case that takes aim at FDA policies that have expanded access to mifepristone in recent years. It will be the first significant abortion case before the Supreme Court since its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the constitutional right to abortion.

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