Walgreens and CVS Will Start Dispensing Mifepristone Within the Month

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Walgreens will start dispensing the abortion pill as soon as a week.

This article was updated at 3:10 on March 1, 2024.

Walgreens and CVS will start dispensing mifepristone, an abortion pill, within the coming weeks, according to an article by the New York Times.1 Walgreens will start dispensing the drug as soon as within a week, according to their Walgreens Mifepristone Resource Hub.2

Medicine law concept. Judges gavel with pills | Image Credit: Iren Moroz - stock.adobe.com

Image Credit: Iren Moroz - stock.adobe.com

In the resource hub, Walgreens issued a statement reading: “Walgreens 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.”2

According to the New York Times article, the medication will be available in stores and will not be provided by mail.1

The states initially selected will be New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, and Illinois, but for patients’ and pharmacists’ safety, the company has not disclosed the number of sites per state or the pharmacies that will be dispensing the pill, according to the resource hub. The company stated that the selection was rigorous when choosing the initial sites and included states where it is legally permissible and where the sites could meet the patient demand.2

Furthermore, the company stated that the sites will operate consistently with how they provide access to other Risk Evaluation Mitigation Strategy (REMS) medication, which is required by the FDA.2

Previously, in February 2023, a coalition of 20 state attorneys sent a letter to Walgreens and CVS that said their plan to distribute abortion pills via mail order was illegal. In January 2024, the FDA announced that retail pharmacies could distribute the pills under new regulatory changes and the REMS program.3

3 Key Takeaways

  1. Walgreens and CVS will begin dispensing mifepristone, an abortion pill, within the coming weeks.
  2. The medication will be available in stores and will not be dispensed by mail. Initially, the medication will be available in select locations in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, and Illinois.
  3. The states chosen are where it is legally permissible to dispense mifepristone and where the sites can meet patient demand. The dispensing of the medication will follow the same protocols as other medications with safety concerns as outlined by the FDA's REMS program.

According to an article in Pharmacy Times, even with the regulatory change, confusion persists about how and where pharmacists can distribute mifepristone.3 According to the FDA, the. REMS program modification in January 2023 “removed the in-person dispensing requirement and added pharmacy certification.” Under the update, the drug can be dispensed “by or under the supervision of a certified prescriber or by certified pharmacies on a prescription issued by a certified prescriber.”4

Walgreens plans on expanding the availability in locations that allow the dispensing of mifepristone in a phased approach, which was chosen for quality, safety, and privacy, according to the company’s resource hub. The company will also be developing new processes that go beyond existing laws to provide enhanced privacy protections. Furthermore, according to the website, Walgreens will also uphold laws that protect health care providers right so any member of the health care service who is unable perform the task due to moral, religious, and/or ethical objections can request to be exempt or accommodated.2

CVS has received certification from GenBioPro, the generic manufacturer to mifepristone, to dispense the company's generic version of the medication.

“We commend CVS and their commitment to women's health. Their leadership among national pharmacy chains is pivotal and today’s announcement is a significant step toward making our company’s belief that all people, regardless of income, gender, race, or geography, have a right to access evidence-based health care and safe and effective medicines – including medication abortion – a reality," Evan Masingill, CEO of GenBioPro, said in a statement.

References
  1. Belluck P. CVS and Walgreens Will Begin Selling Abortion Pills This Month. The New York Times. March 1, 2024. Accessed March 1, 2024. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/01/health/abortion-pills-cvs-walgreens.html
  2. Walgreens Boots Alliance. Walgreens Mifepristone Resource Hub. Updated March 1, 2024. Accessed March 1, 2024. https://www.walgreensbootsalliance.com/walgreens-mifepristone-resource-hub
  3. Antrim A. Attorneys General Tell CVS, Walgreens Mail-Order Distribution of Abortion Pills is Illegal. Pharmacy Times. February 2, 2023. Accessed March 1, 2024. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/attorneys-general-tell-cvs-walgreens-mail-order-distribution-of-abortion-pills-is-illegal
  4. FDA, Questions and Answers on Mifepristone for Medical Termination of Pregnancy Through Ten Weeks Gestation. Updated September 1, 2023. Accessed March 1, 2024. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/postmarket-drug-safety-information-patients-and-providers/questions-and-answers-mifepristone-medical-termination-pregnancy-through-ten-weeks-gestation#TheJanuary2023REMSModification
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