CVS and Walgreens plan to start dispensing abortion pill mifepristone soon

The drugstore chains CVS Health and Walgreens plan to start dispensing an abortion pill in a few states within weeks.

CVS Health will start filling prescriptions for mifepristone in Rhode Island and neighboring Massachusetts “in the weeks ahead,” spokeswoman Amy Thibault said Friday.

Walgreens will begin dispensing the medication within a week, spokesman Fraser Engerman said. The chain will start with some locations in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and Illinois.

He said the company was starting in “in select locations to allow us to ensure quality, safety and privacy for our patients, providers and team members.”

Thibault said CVS Health will add states “where allowed by law, on a rolling basis.”

The New York Times first reported the retailers’ plans.

CVS Health Corp., the nation’s largest drugstore chain, runs nearly 9,400 locations. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. has about 8,700 U.S. stores.

Their announcements Friday marked “an important milestone” in ensuring mifepristone access, President Joe Biden said in a statement. He noted that many women will soon be able to pick up their prescriptions at a local, certified pharmacy like they would any other medication.

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

The moves by CVS and Walgreens come more than a year after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule change that broadened availability of abortion pills to many more pharmacies, including large chains and mail-order companies.

The FDA in 2000 approved mifepristone to terminate pregnancies of up to 10 weeks, when used with a second drug, misoprostol.

Mifepristone is taken first to dilate the cervix and block the hormone progesterone, which is needed to sustain a pregnancy. Misoprostol is taken 24 to 48 hours later, causing the uterus to contract and expel pregnancy tissue.

For more than 20 years, the FDA labeling had limited dispensing to a subset of specialty offices and clinics, due to safety concerns.

The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing a challenge from conservative groups who are seeking to reverse mifepristone’s approval or roll back policies that have made it easier to obtain.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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