CVS, Walgreens to Start Providing Abortion Pills

Mifepristone will be available by prescription at chains’ locations in several states
Mifepristone Main Image
CVS and Walgreens will initially offer abortion pill mifepristone at stores in just a few states and gradually expand to all other states where they can legally do so.

CVS and Walgreens, the two largest drug store chains in the United States, will start offering the abortion pill mifepristone starting this month, according to a published report.

Officials of both companies told The New York Times on March 1 that they had received certification to dispense mifepristone according to FDA guidelines. According to the officials, the chains would initially offer the  medication at stores in just a few states and gradually expand to all other states where they can legally do so – about half of the United States. The pills won't be sold by mail. 

Walgreens will start offering the pill within the next week in a small number of locations in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and Illinois, while CVS will begin providing it at all of its Massachusetts and Rhode Island pharmacies “in the weeks ahead,” a company spokeswoman said. Both chains will monitor the prospects in other states, with the intention of introducing the drug only where it’s legally permitted and the laws regarding the the dispensing of mifepristone are clear. According to the Times, the move by CVS and Walgreens will enable doctors and other eligible providers to call in a prescription to a pharmacy for a patient to pick up.

“As the availability in retail pharmacies expands, they may become a more popular alternative, and depending on the outcome of a case the Supreme Court will hear later this month, the pharmacy option could take on more importance,” wrote Times health and science reporter Pam Belluck. “In that case, abortion opponents have sued the FDA, seeking to remove mifepristone from the market in the United States. An appeals court ruling in that case did not go that far but effectively banned the mailing of mifepristone and required in-person doctor visits. If the Supreme Court upholds that ruling, it could mean that patients would have to obtain mifepristone by visiting a clinic, doctor or pharmacy.” 

The Washington, D.C.-based American Pharmacists Association encouraged FDA to allow drug stores to distribute mifepristone as a way “to level the playing field by permitting any pharmacy that chooses to dispense this product to become certified.” Shortly after FDA’s policy change was revealed in January 2023, Walgreens and CVS said they would earn certification from mifepristone manufacturers and offer the medication in states where pharmacies were allowed to dispense it. In the wake of their decision to carry mifepristone, both chains have seen protests outside their stores, as well as at a Walgreens Boots Alliance shareholders meeting. A few small independent pharmacies began dispensing the drug last year, according to the Times.

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According to Belluck: “Medication abortion is a two-drug regimen [mifepristone, followed 24 to 48 hours later by misoprostol] that is now the most common method of terminating pregnancies in the United States and is typically used through 12 weeks of pregnancy.”

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens, which operates nearly 9,000 retail locations across the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, is No. 5 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. With its CVS Pharmacy subsidiary operating approximately 9,000 locations nationwide, Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health is No. 7 on The PG 100. 

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