Major pharmacy chains to begin selling abortion pill

(The Hill) — Major pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens announced on Friday they would begin selling the abortion pill mifepristone.

The pharmacy chains concurrently said Friday they had received Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) certifications from the Food and Drug Administration, which prescribers and pharmacies are required to have to dispense mifepristone.

The REMS program is required by the FDA for any drug that has serious safety concerns and is meant to ensure that the benefits outweigh the risk. Some critics have argued mifepristone’s requirement under REMS is not backed by science and limits access to the drug.

“We’ve received certification to dispense mifepristone at CVS Pharmacy and plan to fill prescriptions for this medication in states where legally permissible. We’re working with manufacturers and suppliers to secure the medication and are not yet dispensing it in any of our pharmacies,” CVS said in a statement to The Hill.

“We’ll begin filling prescriptions for the medication in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the weeks ahead and will expand to additional states, where allowed by law, on a rolling basis.”

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When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Walgreens said the chain “has completed the FDA certification process to dispense mifepristone and expects to begin dispensing within a week, consistent with federal and state laws. We are beginning a phased rollout in select locations to allow us to ensure quality, safety, and privacy for our patients, providers, and team members.”

The spokesperson added that Walgreens will begin dispensing at “select locations” in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and Illinois. While the company will begin by dispensing the brand name version, there are plans to provide the generic form in the future.

President Joe Biden welcomed the news on Friday.

“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. I encourage all pharmacies that want to pursue this option to seek certification,” he said in a statement.

“The stakes could not be higher for women across America,” BIden added. “In the face of relentless attacks on reproductive freedom by Republican elected officials, Vice President Harris and I will continue to fight to ensure that women can get the health care they need, to defend the Food and Drug Administration’s independent and evidence-based approval and regulation of mifepristone, and to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law.”

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Mifepristone’s FDA approval as an abortifacient was at the center of a federal lawsuit last year that ended with a panel of judges ultimately ruling to keep the approval in place but reversing federal actions that expanded access to the drug.

The Department of Justice has requested that the Supreme Court reverse this ruling. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on the case, with a court date set for March 26.

Nathaniel Weixel contributed to this report.

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