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FDA Allows Sale Of Abortion Pills At Retail Pharmacies

Prescriptions from certified health care providers are still required for purchase of mifepristone and misoprostol at retail pharmacies.

Photo from Mifepristone Bolivia Facebook dated September 9, 2022.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced earlier this month that pharmacies in the US can now dispense the abortion medication, mifepristone, to people with a prescription.

This is the first time the FDA is permitting retail pharmacies to provide abortion pills as prior to this only a certified health care provider can order, prescribe and dispense the pills.

Mifepristone is used in conjunction with another medication, misoprostol, to terminate pregnancies at up to ten weeks of gestation.

While prescriptions are still required, patients can fill them in-person or through mail delivery from local drugstores and pharmacies chains like CVS and Walgreens, provided these establishments have been certified to dispense the medication.

According to the FDA website, Mifeprex, which is the brand name of Mifepristone, is available under a single, shared system risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS), known as the Mifepristone REMS Program, which sets forth the requirements that must be followed for the use of mifepristone to medically terminate a pregnancy.

The Mifepristone REMS Program was modified earlier this month following a review of the program in 2021. Available data and information support modification of the REMS to reduce burden on the health care delivery system and to ensure the benefits of the product, said the FDA on its website.

Walgreens and CVS, the two largest drugstore chains in the US, said they will undergo the certification process to offer the medicine in states where abortion is legal, CNBC reported.

Since Roe v Wade–the 1973 decision that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion– was overturned in June last year, more than a dozen states in the US have instituted laws prohibiting abortion. In these states, companies cannot provide the abortion pill.

However, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the US Postal Service is allowed to deliver abortion pills, even in states that have banned or placed restrictions on abortion.

In a 21-page legal opinion published online on January 3, the DOJ maintained that federal and state laws do “not prohibit the mailing of certain drugs that can be used to perform abortions where the sender lacks the intent that the recipient of the drugs will use them unlawfully.

“Because there are manifold ways in which recipients in every state may lawfully use such drugs, including to produce an abortion, the mere mailing of such drugs to a particular jurisdiction is an insufficient basis for concluding that the sender intends them to be used unlawfully.”

In the opinion, the DOJ noted that mifepristone and misoprostol are also used to treat miscarriages, and that misoprostol is commonly prescribed for the prevention and treatment of gastric ulcers.

As such, the DOJ stated that medicine providers and postal workers are not violating the law when they send or deliver the pills to recipients in states where abortions are legally prohibited.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organisation for advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, medication abortion accounted for more than half (54 per cent) of abortions in the US.

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