Walgreens Boots Alliance plans to apply for certification to dispense medication that can induce abortions, after a federal rule change Tuesday expanding the ways patients can get the pills.
“We intend to become a certified pharmacy under the program,” said Walgreens, which is based in Deerfield, in a statement Wednesday. “We are working through the registration, necessary training of our pharmacists, as well as evaluating our pharmacy network in terms of where we normally dispense products that have extra FDA requirements and will dispense these consistent with federal and state laws.”
The statement came a day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule change meant to broaden access to the medication mifepristone, which, when used with the drug misoprostol, can terminate pregnancies of up to 10 weeks. Mifepristone is taken first to dilate the cervix and block the hormone progesterone, which is needed to sustain a pregnancy. Misoprostol is taken 24 to 48 hours later, causing the uterus to contract and expel pregnancy tissue.
The rule change will allow large chain pharmacies, for the first time, and mail-order companies to dispense the medication.
The Biden administration partially implemented the change last year, announcing it would no longer enforce a long-standing requirement that women pick up the medicine in person. This week’s action updated the drug’s labeling to allow many more retail pharmacies to dispense the pills, so long as they complete a certification process. The rule change will also allow women to get prescriptions via telehealth consultation with a health professional, and then receive the pills through the mail, where permitted by law.
Since the change, many have been watching Walgreens and other large retail pharmacy chains to see if they would seek certification. Axios reported Wednesday evening that CVS Health also plans to seek certification.
For more than 20 years, the FDA labeling had limited dispensing because of safety concerns. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA temporarily suspended the in-person requirement. The agency later said a new scientific review by agency staff supported easing access, concurring with numerous medical societies that had long said the restriction wasn’t necessary.
More than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills rather than surgery, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
The federal change follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year overturning Roe v. Wade — an action that led a number of states to outlaw abortion, limiting access to abortion in many areas of the country. Since that U.S. Supreme Court ruling, abortion providers in Illinois, where abortion remains legal, say they’ve seen an unprecedented number of out-of-state patients.
The Associated Press contributed.