Updated Mar 1, 2024 - Health

CVS and Walgreens to start selling abortion pills

A Walgreens truck parks near a CVS Pharmacy on March 10, 2023 in New York City. New York Governor Kathy Hochul and state Attorney General Letitia James called on the biggest pharmacy chains to commit to making abortion pills available in the state. (Photo by Leonardo Munoz/VIEWpress)

A Walgreens truck parks near a CVS Pharmacy on March 10, 2023 in New York City. Photo: Leonardo Munoz/VIEWpress via Getty Images

Walgreens and CVS, two of the largest U.S. pharmacy chains, plan to start offering abortion pills this month, the companies told Axios Friday.

Why it matters: The move will increase availability to mifepristone just as the Supreme Court is set to weigh access to the pill in a high-stakes case that marks the top court's first major abortion issue since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

  • The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on March 26 in a dispute over access to mifepristone, with a ruling expected by late June.

The big picture: The two chains received the required certification to dispense mifepristone under the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory change issued last year.

  • They'll start rolling out the medication in a handful of states where abortion is legal.

What they're saying: Walgreens said it expects to begin dispensing within a week, consistent with federal and state laws, in select locations in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and Illinois.

  • CVS said in a statement that it plans to fill prescriptions for the medication in the weeks ahead in states where legally permissible, including in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
  • "We're working with manufacturers and suppliers to secure the medication and are not yet dispensing it in any of our pharmacies," CVS said, adding that it expand to additional states on a rolling basis.

Zoom out: President Biden called the move "an important milestone" in a statement Friday, saying mifepristone has been deemed safe and effective by the FDA for more than 20 years.

  • "With major retail pharmacy chains newly certified to dispense medication abortion, many women will soon have the option to pick up their prescription at a local, certified pharmacy—just as they would for any other medication," he said.
  • "I encourage all pharmacies that want to pursue this option to seek certification," the president added.

Background: Under the FDA's regulatory change, pharmacies can apply to become certified to dispense mifepristone.

  • Approved pharmacies still need to comply with the laws of the state they are located in, some of which restrict access to abortion pills.
  • Certified pharmacies can offer mifepristone only after receiving a prescription from a certified health provider.

Go deeper: DOJ tells SCOTUS curbing abortion pill access "threatens profound harms"

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