After the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to abortion last year, demand for abortion pills increased as a result of some states outlawing or severely restricting access to the procedure.
According to a new rule change by the Biden administration, retail pharmacies in the US can now dispense the abortion drug mifepristone.
Mifepristone is currently only available in person from a medical professional as one of a two-drug regimen that is safe and effective for causing an abortion. The new regulation still calls for a prescription, but patients can now pick up the medication in person or via mail.
The action may greatly increase the number of women who can seek medical abortions.
According to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, more than half of abortions performed in the US are currently performed through pills rather than surgical procedures.
As part of its pandemic-driven shift toward telemedicine, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in December 2021 that it will permanently remove the necessity for individuals to receive a prescription in person from a healthcare professional.
The New Approach
Mifepristone, which is marketed by Danco Labs under the brand name Mifeprex and is also available as a generic, is no longer required to be administered by a healthcare professional in person at an approved clinic.
It is still only available with a prescription, but the FDA’s new strategy makes it now collectible in-pharmacy or via mail order, reducing one barrier to more widespread access.
The in-person condition put in place during COVID-19 is made permanent after having been temporarily suspended. For the REMS to allow pharmacies to distribute mifepristone, they must seek certification.
“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,” said Danco.
Pharmacies of all sizes and types, including corner drugstores, can now apply for certification to distribute mifepristone, enabling them to provide direct patient care when a patient has a prescription from a licensed prescriber. Both pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS have stated they are looking into the new standards.
It’s also conceivable that women in the more than a dozen states where pharmaceutical abortions are prohibited will have to travel to another state to get one.