CVS and Walgreens will sell mifepristone in pharmacies

Mifepristone (Mifeprex), one of the two drugs used in a medical abortion, is on display June 15, 2022 at the Women’s Reproductive Clinic in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, which provides legal medical abortion services.

Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images

Walgreens Spirit CV will sell the abortion pill mifepristone after the Food and Drug Administration this week dropped a longstanding rule preventing drugstores from doing so.

The decision by the two largest drugstore chains in the US will significantly expand access to mifepristone in states where abortion is legal. The companies can’t offer the pill in states that banned abortion in the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade picked up.

The FDA changed its rules on Tuesday to allow retail drugs to dispense mifepristone so long as they complete a certification process. The agency dropped a long-standing rule that required patients to receive the abortion pill in person at clinics, hospitals and other certified healthcare providers.

Walgreens plans to become certified and is working to register and train its pharmacists to dispense mifepristone in accordance with federal and state law, spokesman Fraser Engerman said. CVS also plans to get certified in states where it’s legal, spokeswoman Amy Thibault said.

This means that patients in many parts of the US can obtain mifepristone like other prescription medications, either in person at their pharmacy or through the mail.

Mifepristone has become a central focus in the state-level political battle over abortion after the Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade fell. Several conservative groups have asked a Texas federal court to overturn the FDA’s approval of mifepristone.

Mifepristone is the most common method of terminating a pregnancy in the United States. About 51% of abortions in 2020 were performed with mifepristone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FDA first approved mifepristone as a method of early pregnancy termination more than 20 years ago in 2000, but the pill has long had strict regulations about how it could be delivered to patients. Medical organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists had long argued that these regulations had no scientific basis and were rooted in politics.

Mifepristone is approved to terminate pregnancy up to 10 weeks. It is used in combination with another pill called misoprostol. Mifepristone stops the pregnancy from continuing and misoprostol induces contractions that empty the uterus.

CNBC Health & Science

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