Two U.S. large pharmacies will dispense abortion pill Mifepristone this month

The two largest pharmacy chains in the nation will start dispensing the abortion pill, known as Mifepristone later this month. 

CVS and Walgreens are the largest pharmacies in the United States and will start dispensing abortion care medication this month. 

Both pharmacy giants received certification to dispense the medication to patients who have a prescription.  The potential for this move means increased access, potentially making it easy for patients to get abortion care without surgery. 

It was April last year that the Food and Drug Administration allowed pharmacies to become certified to dispense Mifepristone.

Even with the announcement by the large pharmacies, a doctor needs to prescribe for a patient to access the drug. 

One 22-year-old woman we spoke to admitted she'd had a surgical abortion. She thinks this is good news for patients who want a choice for their abortion care. 

"It’s a great thing to have easy access to, as I know a lot of people who struggle to get the care they need," Penelope said.

Dr. Daniel Grossman is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCSF and serves as director of advancing new standards in reproductive health. 

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration removed the in-person requirement for physicians dispensing Mifepristone.

"The medication can only be dispensed in person, in a doctor’s office or clinic or hospital. Since that ‘in person, dispensing’ requirement has gone away, there’s an expansion in the use of mail-order pharmacies and telemedicine to provide abortion medication, which has dramatically expanded the use of this medication," said Grossman.

In some states, it’s the only way women can access abortion care. 

"It’s a popular method and many patients report it’s easier, simpler, and more convenient. They can rest at home and be in the care of their family and loved ones," said Grossman.

Walgreens will start providing the pill within the next week in some of its pharmacies in five states, including California and New York.

CVS will begin dispensing in all its pharmacies in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the weeks ahead, according to a spokesperson. 

Late March, the Supreme Court is taking up the case challenging the US FDA regarding whether Mifepristone can be dispensed without a patient seeing a doctor before receiving the drug. 

The in-person dispensing requirement could eliminate the option of telemedicine, thereby eliminating the option of patients being able to access the medication from pharmacies.  

Currently, 50% of abortions are performed using medication, rather than surgical intervention. Grossman says for many patients, it’s preferable to surgical abortion care. 

"We’ve done a ton of research at UCSF and at ANSRH and looking at this model, it’s very safe and very effective," he said.