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CVS and Walgreens will start dispensing abortion pill mifepristone. Here's when and where

mifepristone tablets aka abortion pill soon available walgreens cvs pharmacy

Both pharmacy chains already dispense misoprostol, the other medication involved in medication abortion regimens.

Written by Meg Tirrell and Nikki Carvajal

(CNN) — CVS and Walgreens said they’ve received certification to dispense mifepristone, a pill that’s part of a regimen for medication abortion, and will start making the medicine available in a limited number of states where it’s legal.

CVS told CNN that it’ll 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.”

Walgreens told CNN that it expects to start dispensing mifepristone within a week, “consistent with federal and state laws,” 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.”

Both pharmacy chains noted that 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 data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use up to 10 weeks into pregnancy.

Mifepristone has been at the center of legal challenges in the US, and the Supreme Court said in December that it would consider whether to restrict access to it, with a decision expected by July.

The New York Times first reported Friday that CVS and Walgreens plan to sell mifepristone.

The FDA issued an update to guidelines around how mifepristone may be dispensed in January 2023, allowing the drug to be provided by “certified pharmacies on a prescription issued by a certified prescriber.”

Before then, the FDA required certified prescribers to dispense the drug directly to patients at a clinic, medical office or hospital, referred to as the “in-person dispensing requirement.” The drug was also available through mail-order pharmacies, as the agency said it wouldn’t enforce the in-person requirement during the Covid-19 pandemic.

President Joe Biden called the news “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.”

“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,” the president wrote in a statement Friday. “I encourage all pharmacies that want to pursue this option to seek certification.”

Biden also warned that the stakes “could not be higher for women across America” and vowed that “in the face of relentless attacks on reproductive freedom by Republican elected officials,” his administration would work to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade.

The Biden campaign has sought to make abortion and contraception access a main platform of the 2024 campaign, deploying Vice President Kamala Harris on a reproductive freedoms tour across the country.

Human Coalition, a group that advocates against abortion, decried the mifepristone news, calling it a “massive scheme of abortion-on-demand.” Chelsey Youman, the group’s national director of public policy, said in a statement that “the FDA has lost all credibility in abandoning its responsibility to protect life, and women and children are paying the cost with their lives.”

Dr. Daniel Grossman, a professor and vice chair of advocacy in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, called the development good news.

“It’s been over a year since FDA issued guidance for pharmacies to become certified to dispense the medication, and I’ve been disappointed that more pharmacies haven’t done this sooner,” he told CNN via email.

He noted that research his team has done “demonstrated that medication abortion provided by a clinician who sent a prescription to a brick-and-mortar pharmacy, which dispensed the pills, was safe, effective, and well-liked by patients. We also found that pharmacists were eager to be trained on medication abortion and could easily incorporate dispensing mifepristone into their practice.”

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