CVS and Walgreens to start selling abortion pill mifepristone this month 

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A container holding boxes of mifepristone, the first medication in a medical abortion, are prepared for patients at Alamo Women’s Clinic in Carbondale, Illinois, on April 20, 2023.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

CVS and Walgreens will start selling the abortion pill mifepristone this month at certain pharmacy locations in states where it is legal to do so, spokespeople for the companies told CNBC on Friday. 

CVS and Walgreens received certification from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to dispense the commonly used pill at their retail pharmacies, spokespeople for each company said in separate statements.

CVS will begin filling prescriptions for the medication in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the coming weeks, a spokesperson for the company said. They added that CVS will expand to additional states, “where allowed by law, on a rolling basis.” 

Walgreens expects to start dispensing prescriptions for the pill within a week at select pharmacy locations in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and Illinois, a company spokesperson said.

Notably, the chains will not provide the medication by mail. The New York Times reported the news earlier Friday.

Mifepristone is the first pill used in the two-drug medication abortion regimen.

The FDA is squaring off with anti-abortion physicians in an unprecedented legal challenge to its more than two-decade-old approval of mifepristone. An anti-abortion rights group sued the agency in 2022 in a bid to declare that approval unlawful and completely remove the pill from the U.S. market

On March 26, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in that closely watched case.

The FDA in January said it will allow retail pharmacies to offer mifepristone in the U.S. for the first time. 

Under a regulatory change at the agency, pharmacies can apply for certification to distribute the pill with one of the two companies that make it. That certification would allow pharmacies to dispense the medication directly to patients upon receiving a prescription from a certified prescriber.

Before the FDA’s regulatory change, only a few mail-order pharmacies or specially certified doctors or clinics could distribute mifepristone.

The regulatory change will potentially expand abortion access as the Biden administration wrestles with how best to protect abortion rights. The right to abortion in the U.S. was sharply curtailed by the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

The Biden administration has sought to make abortion and contraception access a main platform of the president’s 2024 campaign.

Medication abortion is the most common method of terminating a pregnancy in the U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That method is approved by the FDA for use up to 10 weeks into pregnancy.

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