Following new rules from the FDA under the Biden administration, patients can now obtain the abortion pill mifepristone from retail pharmacies, rather than having to collect the medication in person from their healthcare provider. A prescription for the drug is still required, however this can now be filled at an instore pharmacy or by mail order.
This new ruling could help to expand access to medical abortions following the overturning of Roe V Wade: this removed the federal right to abortion, meaning various states have completely banned or harshly restricted access to abortions. However, according to the pro-choice Guttmacher
Institute, more than half of abortions in the US are done with abortion pills rather than surgery, meaning expanding the availability of these medications can only help patients safely access the procedure.
The FDA’s new requirements state that the drug ‘can be dispensed by certified pharmacies or by or under the supervision of a certified prescriber.’
Mifepristone is one half of a drug combination commonly used to trigger medication abortions, used alongside misoprostol at around ten to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Misoprostol is not a restricted drug and is often used for miscarriages, so can be easily obtained at pharmacies with a prescription.
Pharmacies are now able to apply for certification to distribute mifepristone, allowing them to treat customers who have received a prescription from a certified prescriber. Chains such as CVS and Walgreens are already reviewing the FDA’s new requirements.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has called this move “an important step” and has stated: “Although the FDA’s announcement today will not solve access issues for every person seeking abortion care, it will allow more patients who need mifepristone for medication abortion additional options to secure this vital drug.”
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