FDA allows pharmacies to sell abortion pills

Retail phar­ma­cies in the Unit­ed States can now dis­pense the abor­tion drug mifepri­s­tone for the first time, thanks to new reg­u­la­to­ry changes by the Biden administration.

Patients now obtain mifepri­s­tone, a safe and effec­tive dual ther­a­py for induc­ing abor­tion, direct­ly from their health­care provider.

The new rule still requires a pre­scrip­tion, but patients can now pick up the pills over the counter or by mail.

This mea­sure could sig­nif­i­cant­ly expand access to med­ical abortion.

Demand for abor­tion pills is soar­ing after last year’s Supreme Court rul­ing abol­ish­ing fed­er­al abor­tion rights, some states have banned or severe­ly restrict­ed abortion.

Already, more than half of all abor­tions in the Unit­ed States are done with pills instead of surgery, accord­ing to the abor­tion advo­cate Gut­mach­er Institute.

In Decem­ber 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA) said it would per­ma­nent­ly remove the require­ment for patients to obtain pre­scrip­tions direct­ly from a health­care provider as part of a move toward telemedicine.

On Tues­day, the FDA updat­ed its web­site with new require­ments, say­ing the drug “may be dis­pensed by a licensed phar­ma­cy or under the super­vi­sion of a licensed prescriber.”

Dan­co Lab­o­ra­to­ries and Gen­Bio­Pro in the Unit­ed States, which man­u­fac­ture the drug, con­firmed in sep­a­rate state­ments that the agency had informed them of the decision.

The Amer­i­can Col­lege of Obste­tri­cians and Gyne­col­o­gists called the move “an impor­tant step.”

“Today’s announce­ment by the FDA will not solve the prob­lem of access to abor­tion care for all, but it will help more patients who need mifepri­s­tone for med­ical abor­tion to take this impor­tant drug. We will be able to have new options to acquire,” the group said in a statement.

Mifepri­s­tone is tak­en with a sec­ond drug called miso­pros­tol. Miso­pros­tol is usu­al­ly tak­en between the 10th and 12th week of preg­nan­cy to induce what is known as a med­ical abor­tion. Miso­pros­tol, which is com­mon­ly used to man­age mis­car­riage, is not a con­trolled sub­stance and is read­i­ly avail­able at phar­ma­cies with a prescription.

Phar­ma­cies, from major chains to local phar­ma­cies, can now apply for accred­i­ta­tion to dis­pense mifepri­s­tone, allow­ing them to serve cus­tomers direct­ly with a pre­scrip­tion from an accred­it­ed pre­scriber. Phar­ma­cy chains CVS and Wal­greens say they are study­ing the new requirements.

But polit­i­cal land­mines around abor­tion are like­ly to affect whether and where phar­ma­cies offer the pill.

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