CVS, Walgreens To Begin Selling Abortion Pill

CVS and Walgreens have received certification to dispense mifepristone under guidelines that the Food and Drug Administration issued last year. 

“The chains plan to make the medication available in stores in a handful of states at first. They will not be providing the medication by mail,” according toThe New York Times, which first reported the news. “Both chains said they would gradually expand to all other states where abortion was legal and where pharmacies were legally able to dispense abortion pills — about half of the states.”

In January 2023, the FDA passed a rule that allows pharmacies to fill prescriptions for abortion pills. Previously, the drug was only available straight from doctors or by mail via telehealth consultations. The pill has been legal in the U.S. since 2000.



“Mifepristone remains at the center of an ongoing legal battle between anti-abortion activists and the FDA,” according to NPR. “Anti-abortion rights groups sued the agency in 2022 over the approval of mifepristone — a drug that had been in use for more than 20 years.”

Shortly after the FDA policy change was announced  Walgreens and CVS said they planned to become certified and offer mifepristone in states where laws would allow pharmacies to dispense it.

Walgreens later became the focus of a consumer and political firestorm  including threatening letters from Republican attorneys general. 

“Both chains have had protests outside their stores, mostly from anti-abortion advocates, and similar protesters interrupted a meeting of shareholders at Walgreens Boots Alliance, the chain’s parent company,” according to The New York Times

Walgreens has come under pressure from both sides of the abortion debate. 

“The company infuriated supporters of abortion rights last year by saying it would not dispense abortion pills in 21 states, including four states where abortion is still legal,” according toThe Washington Post. “It also faced protests from antiabortion demonstrators objecting to Walgreens selling abortion pills at all.”

Both pharmacy chains noted they already dispense misoprostol, the other medication involved in medication abortion regimens. Medication abortion is the most common method of abortion in the United States, according to  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is approved by the FDA for use up to 10 weeks into pregnancy.

CVS will begin filling prescriptions for mifepristone in Massachusetts and Rhode Island “in the weeks ahead,” and plans to expand to more states, where allowed by law, on a rolling basis, according to a statement from the company. Walgreens expects to start dispensing mifepristone within a week, and is beginning in select locations in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and Illinois. 

"The pharmacy giant said it’s starting with a phased rollout ‘to allow us to ensure quality, safety and privacy for our patients, providers and team members,’” according to CNN.

The announcement by CVS and Walgreens comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is set to weigh whether the pill could be acquired by mail without an in-person doctor visit.

“The case will be heard by the Supreme Court later this month, after a federal appeals court ruled that the pill should remain legal, but should not be sent through the mail or prescribed through telemedicine,” notes the BBC.

“If the U.S. top court upholds that ruling, it would mean that patients would have to obtain the pill by visiting a clinic, doctor or pharmacy in-person.”

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