NEW YORK — With family planning rights under major threat in several states, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced this week a move to expand access to abortion.
Now chains such as CVS and Walgreens will be able to sell abortion pills to those with prescriptions.
The FDA gave the green light to mifepristone as a method of medication abortion back in 2000. Taken along with misoprostol, the two-drug combination can terminate pregnancies up to 10 weeks in. But there has been a significant barrier to obtaining the drug: the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) restrictions introduced in 2011. Since then, patients have had to pick up the medication directly from a doctor’s office, hospital, or health center, rather than from a pharmacy or by mail for 20 years, barring a temporary suspension of the rules for during the pandemic.
With the recent updates, the FDA has removed the in-person dispensing requirement, and added the requirement for pharmacies who want to stock the drugs to be certified by one of the two manufacturers, GenBioPro and Danco Laboratories.
“We intend to become a certified pharmacy under the program,” Walgreens said in a statement. “We are working through the registration, necessary training of our pharmacists, as well as evaluating our pharmacy network in terms of where we normally dispense products that have extra FDA requirements and will dispense these consistent with federal and state laws.”
Other chains, such as Rite Aid, are reviewing the new FDA rules, while CVS Health said it will seek certification where legally permissible. Besides becoming certified, pharmacies must commit to only fill prescriptions from certified prescribers, while maintaining records and confidentiality. Prior to the pandemic, there was an “in-person” clause that required patients to see healthcare providers in a physical location, but that was relaxed in April 2021 and allowed the pills to be sent by mail.
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