2023-01-05| PolicyTrending

Retail Pharmacies Can Dispense Abortion Pills Under New FDA Ruling

by Reed Slater
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The FDA finalized a new rule on Tuesday allowing pharmacies with proper certification to dispense abortion pills like Mifepristone with a prescription. The rule aims to provide easier and broader access to the medications, providing large retailers like CVS and Walgreens the opportunity to distribute the meds. While it may offer better access in some areas of the country, the political landmines surrounding abortion will still make it challenging to obtain the pills in some states.

Continuing the Fight for Easier Access to Abortion Pills

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, the decision that provided the right to an abortion, several administrations and organizations have been working to provide better access to abortions. The Biden administration made some changes last year, allowing women to receive abortion pills through the mail, and eliminating the need for in-person visits. 

The most recent rule would allow pharmacies certified under the Mifepristone risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS) Program to distribute the pills to women with a prescription. Now, women in certain areas working with certified healthcare providers could receive telehealth consulting and have the medications delivered to their homes, eliminating the need for any in-person contact throughout the process. 

The Department of Justice also solidified the mail-in rule on Monday, announcing that delivering the pills through the U.S. Postal Service does not violate the Comstock Act. The 1873 act makes it illegal to send “obscene, lewd or lascivious” objects through the mail. 

One of the leading manufacturers of Mifepristone, Danco, said in a statement, “At a time when people across the country are struggling to obtain abortion care services, this modification is critically important to expanding access to medication abortion services and will provide healthcare providers with an additional method for providing their patients with a safe and effective option for ending early pregnancy.”

Related Article: Roe Reversal May Cause Downstream Issues in Repurposing Mifepristone

A Fight that is Far From Over Across the Nation

Despite the new rule allowing certified pharmacies to dispense abortion pills, many states continue to restrict access to the medications under abortion bans. There are currently 13 states with widespread abortion bans that may restrict access to abortion pills. Furthermore, several states still require counseling services and other restrictions that may make accessing abortion pills more difficult than in other states.

Evan Masingill, the CEO of GenBioPro, a generic Mifepristone manufacturer, told Politico that the FDA’s new rule is “a step in the right direction that is especially needed to increase access to abortion care.” Still, he added that the change “will not provide equal access to all people.”

Numerous lawsuits around the country are ongoing, with no end in sight on both ends of the spectrum, with some fighting to ease access to abortion medications with others lobbying to restrict it. With so many lawsuits underway and the likelihood of many more to come, the most recent FDA ruling is just another blip in the saga of American abortion access.

In some areas around the country, though, the FDA ruling will provide easier access with certified pharmacies now eligible to dispense abortion pills to women with prescriptions. The coming months will showcase how many of America’s largest retail pharmacies will take the FDA up on the offer and apply for certification under the Mifepristone REMS Program.

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