Mar 14, 2023
Top Pharmacies Pressed on Abortion Pill Plans by Senate Democrats
(Bloomberg) -- US lawmakers are calling on pharmacy operators to clarify their policies on stocking, prescribing and distributing a pill that’s commonly taken to induce abortions.
Seventeen Senate Democrats sent letters to Albertsons Cos., Costco Wholesale Corp., CVS Health Corp., Kroger Co., Rite Aid Corp., Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., Walmart Inc. and McKesson Corp.’s Health Mart unit asking them to clarify or share plans surrounding mifepristone, which is approved as an abortion medication through the first 10 weeks of gestation. The Food and Drug Administration in January said it would allow pharmacies to prescribe and dispense the pill to patients directly.
A separate letter signed by 14 governors, including Democrats Gavin Newsom of California, Kathy Hochul of New York and New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham, was also sent to all seven pharmacies on Tuesday.
The FDA’s move is meant to alleviate appointment backlogs at abortion clinics, as well as any mailing delays among telehealth services. CVS Health, Rite Aid and Walgreens have said they would look into receiving certification for pharmacists to offer mifepristone. After Walgreens faced pressure from Republican lawmakers, it later added that it wouldn’t sell the pill in certain states; the company has since doubled back. On Tuesday a spokesperson referred Bloomberg to the company’s previous statement that Walgreens “plans to dispense mifepristone in any jurisdiction where it is legally permissible to do so.”
The Senate lawmakers, led by Senators Patty Murray and Debbie Stabenow, wrote that pharmacies may be exacerbating confusion about abortion pills. “As you continue with the FDA certification process and fully comply with state and federal law, it is critical that your company also provides the strongest possible access to this vital medication and communicates clearly about this,” they wrote in the letter to Walgreens. The senators called on all seven companies to provide “the strongest possible access to the full range of essential health care they need, including mifepristone,” and to tell customers how they can get access.
CVS said it plans to seek certification to sell the pill in states where it’s legal to do so. Walmart declined to comment. Albertsons, Costco, Kroger, Health Mart and Rite Aid didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The federal lawmakers asked Walgreens to clarify how it would communicate the availability of mifepristone, which is safer than Tylenol and has been FDA-approved for over 20 years, to customers across varying states. Letters addressed to CVS Health and Rite Aid requested the companies contact customers about their access and rights.
Albertsons, Costco, Kroger and Walmart have not clarified whether they will seek certification to dispense mifepristone where it’s legally permissible.
“As companies that dispense critical, life-saving medications, we urge that your decisions continue to be guided by well-established science and medical evidence and a commitment to the health and well-being of patients — not politics or litigation threats,” the the governors wrote in their letter.
Newsom, the governor of California, last week announced the state wouldn’t renew a $54 million deal with Walgreens after the company said it won’t sell mifepristone in 20 states.
Medication abortion is effectively banned in 12 states amid overarching bans on abortion care. An additional 15 states restrict access to abortion medication, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group that aims to expand reproductive rights. In most cases, people seeking abortion care in those states have to receive a prescription from a doctor. Six states require that a doctor be present when someone takes the pill.
(Updates from third paragraph with governors’ letter)
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