Are pharmacies really making abortion pills more accessible?
SSome people support abortion honor after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on January 3 finalized a rule that would allow certified retail pharmacies to dispense abortion pills. But the policy may not Expand access to abortion as much as advocates hope, some experts say.
Robin Marty, author of The New Handbook for a Post-Roe America and executive director at a reproductive health center in Alabama provide abortion care until it is banned in the state. “It’s just a good title.”
The FDA update does not change the fact that about a dozen US states, including Alabama, Texas, and Tennessee, are now enforcing ban abortion, said Greer Donley, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who specializes in abortion-related issues. These bans apply to medical abortions as well as surgery, so state law would still prohibit pharmacies from dispensing abortion pills.
“Just because the FDA allows this doesn’t mean the states won’t ban it [medication abortion] themselves, that’s what [many] Donley said.
Some states have place specific restrictions on abortion pillsauthorized for use in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. It’s legally murky territory: The Justice Department recently said it was legal for the US Postal Service to provide abortion pills even in states where they are banned, it would still be illegal for people to use them for abortions when state law prohibits doing so. However, the group aid access (based outside of the US) mail abortion pills even to people who live in states where they are illegal.
Kirsten Moore, director of the Project to Expand Access to Drug Abortion, said that states blocking access to FDA-approved drugs is “totally bullshit” and “disappointing” when Pharmacies in restricted states cannot supply abortion pills. But she hopes getting the drug into pharmacies in states where abortion is legal will still help reach people in other states.
If people could get abortion pills from retail pharmacies, they might not need to go to abortion clinics, freeing up appointments for others, Moore said. People who live in restricted states may also find it easier to go to an out-of-state pharmacy and prescribing doctor than an out-of-state pharmacy. traditional clinicscarce in some parts of the country.
Read more: The Pain of Being an Abortion Caregiver
But even in states where abortion is still legal, Donley doubts whether some pharmacies will have trouble getting certified to supply abortion pills. The certification process is required for pharmacies to dispense mifepristone, one of two drugs used together during a medical abortion. The other drug, misoprostol, is not strictly regulated and is already available for other uses by prescription in pharmacies.
To be certified, a pharmacy must meet a number of regulations set forth by the FDA. These specifications relate to record keeping, adverse event reporting, etc. Pharmacies must also appoint a representative to ensure mifepristone is dispensed in compliance with FDA policies, including verifying that prescriptions come from providers who have completed their own certification process. To prescribe mifepristone, providers must complete documentation confirming their ability to assess pregnancy and provide surgical abortion care, if needed.
Before the pandemic, mifepristone could only be dispensed directly by this certified provider and only after the person wanting an abortion filled out a consent form. In December 2021, the FDA lifted the in-person requirement, paving the way for remote prescribing. But the agency replaced that requirement with a new one: pharmacies—not just providers—must be certified before they dispense mifepristone. Recent FDA update finalize that rule change and introduce requirements for certified pharmacies.
Walgreens and CVS, each operating thousands of locations across the United States, both Report plans to seek certification in states where dispensing the abortion pill is legal. Nearly 80% of people in the United States live within 10 miles of CVS, according to Quartz report from 2017and about the same percentage live within 5 miles of a Walgreens store, the company said. While those in states that ban abortion pills won’t benefit from that gap, pharmacy access could reduce travel time for those living in or near states where abortion is legal. .
To have an even stronger impact on access, Marty feels that mifepristone should be sold in pharmacies without a prescription (similar to a morning pill) Strong safety record. But, she said, that prospect is unlikely to materialize anytime soon.
For now, Moore says it’s a step in the right direction to make the abortion pill available in pharmacies, even if it doesn’t revolutionize access to abortion overnight. “We are turning what used to be a very niche product… into a mainstream product,” says Moore. “That’s really important.”
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