CVS, Walgreens to Start Dispensing Abortion Pill in Stores This Month

CVS and Walgreens, the nation's two largest retail pharmacy chains, are set to begin dispensing mifepristone, one of the medications used to induce an abortion, in stores this month. The decision comes over a year after both companies announced their interest in obtaining certification from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to dispense the pill.

Mifepristone, when used in conjunction with another medication called misoprostol, is a safe and highly effective way to induce an abortion, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy. Patients seeking mifepristone still require a prescription from a medical provider, and the pharmacies will begin dispensing the pill in a few select states, with CVS starting in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and Walgreens in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. The chains plan to make the medication available in all states where abortion is legal and permitted.

This move has been a long time coming, with the FDA having approved mifepristone over 20 years ago. However, its dispersal has been tightly regulated due to political controversy. In December 2021, the FDA allowed specialty pharmacies to distribute mifepristone by mail, and in January 2023, the FDA issued guidance for brick-and-mortar pharmacies to provide the medication. Medical organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have long advocated for wider access to mifepristone due to its established safety and efficacy.

Since the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, medication abortion has become an epicenter of the anti-abortion movement's efforts, with many pushing for restrictions on its use, especially through the mail. However, a recent study found that about 16 percent of abortions performed in the fall of 2023 were conducted via telemedicine, indicating that more Americans are turning to virtual options for abortion care.

President Joe Biden applauded the decision by CVS and Walgreens, stating that he encourages other pharmacies to pursue certification to distribute mifepristone and that his administration would defend the FDA's ability to regulate the drug.

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