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Walgreens, CVS to provide abortion pill

Mifepristone will be available at select pharmacies with a prescription

Walgreens will begin providing the abortion pill, mifepristone, in states where abortion is legal following a Food and Drug Administration rule change. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Jemma Alexander News Intern

Following a rule change, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies will begin providing, with a prescription, the abortion pill mifepristone in Washington and other states where abortion is legal.  

After completing the Food and Drug Administration certification process, Walgreens said it will begin dispensing the drug within a week of March 1, beginning in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and Illinois.  

“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,” Walgreens stated in a release.  

The COVID-19 pandemic saw the creation and growth of online-only clinics. During that time, the FDA removed the requirement that mifepristone could only be obtained in person at a clinic, medical office or hospital, allowing the pill to be mailed to patients or picked up at a pharmacy. At the end of the public emergency and after assessing safety and effectiveness, the FDA permanently removed the in-person requirements.  

CVS and Walgreens will only be supplying the drug in stores, but Walgreens said that home delivery will be available via a courier service where legal. 

In Washington state, mifepristone has been available through the mail and via telehealth appointments. In 2021, 59% of abortions in the state were conducted using mifepristone.  

In other states, patients have been required to pick up the pill in person at a clinic, medical office or hospital.  

Mifepristone was first approved in 2000 for the use of terminating a pregnancy up to seven weeks. It was extended to 10 weeks in 2016. Generic mifepristone tablets were approved in April 2019.  

When taken, the drug expands the cervix and blocks progesterone, a pregnancy hormone. The medication misoprostol is taken one to two days later to expel the tissue.  

In March 2023, Sen. Patty Murray wrote letters to Walgreens and CVS, asking that they provide clarity about when and where the drug will be available, and any changes that may take place.   

The letter, signed by Murray and 16 other U.S. senators, expressed concerns over what they called confusion and misunderstanding the companies have created, as Walgreens had previously stated it did not intend to fill prescriptions for the drug. 

“At a time of great confusion about abortion access, it is imperative that no company adds to it,” the senators wrote in letters to Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and CVS Health.  

Murray predicted in a Friday, March 1 statement that if former President Donald Trump is re-elected, his administration will work to take away any abortion access. She acknowledged that the companies received threatening letters concerning access to the drug, but yielding to those threats prevents patients from receiving essential health care.  

Murray has been pushing to provide reproductive health care to all Americans and has worked to make sure mifepristone was accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

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