Mifepristone (Mifeprex), one of the two drugs used in a medication abortion, is displayed at the Women’s Reproductive Clinic, which provides legal medication abortion services, in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on June 15, 2022.
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images
The decision by the two largest drug store chains in the U.S. will significantly expand access to mifepristone in states where abortion is legal. The companies cannot offer the pill in states that have completely banned abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.
The FDA on Tuesday changed its regulations to allow retail drug stores to dispense mifepristone so long as they complete a certification process. The agency dropped a long-standing rule that required patients to obtain the abortion pill in-person at clinics, hospitals and other certified health-care providers.
Walgreens plans to get certified and is working through the registration and training of its pharmacists to dispense mifepristone consistent with federal and state law, spokesperson Fraser Engerman said. CVS also plans to get certified in states where it is legal to do so, spokesperson Amy Thibault said.
This means patients in many parts of the U.S. will effectively be able to obtain mifepristone like other prescription medications, either in-person at a retail pharmacy or through the mail. Patients will still need to obtain their prescription from a certified health-care provider.
Mifepristone has become a central flashpoint in the political battle over abortion at the state level in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Several conservative groups have asked a federal court in Texas to overturn the FDA’s approval of mifepristone.
Mifepristone is the most common way to terminate a pregnancy in the U.S. Some 51% of abortions were performed with mifepristone in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The FDA first approved mifepristone more than 20 years ago in 2000 as a method to terminate early pregnancies, but the pill long had strict regulations around how it could be dispensed to patients. Medical organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists had long argued that those regulations lacked a scientific basis and were rooted in politics.
Mifepristone is approved to end a pregnancy through the 10th week. It is used in combination with another pill called misoprostol. Mifepristone stops the pregnancy from continuing and misoprostol induces contractions that empty the uterus.