FDA to Allow Pharmacies to Dispense Abortion Pills

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Key Takeaways

  • The FDA made a regulatory change that will allow local pharmacies and major chains to dispense abortion pills in stores or by mail.
  • Patients will still need a prescription from a certified health provider.
  • Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens may have to comply with the laws in states that have banned or restricted abortion access.

For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is allowing retail pharmacies to offer abortion pills in stores or by mail order.

Under the new rules, certified pharmacies can dispense Mifeprex (mifepristone) and its approved generic—the first of the two drugs in the medication abortion regimen—to people who have a prescription from a certified prescriber. The second drug, misoprostol, is unrestricted and is used to treat other conditions such as stomach ulcers. 

The decision could allow easier access to medication abortions, but retail pharmacies may still have to comply with the laws in states where abortion pills are restricted or banned. As of now, at least 12 states have imposed total bans on abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

In a press statement, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said although the FDA announcement “will not solve access issues for every person seeking abortion care, it will allow more patients who need mifepristone for medication abortion additional options to secure this vital drug.”

Currently, medication abortion is approved for use up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy. But research shows that the pills are safe and effective at 13 to 15 weeks gestation.

Medication abortion has become the most common method of abortion in the United States in recent years, accounting for 53% of all U.S. abortions in 2020.

Since abortion rights have been revoked or restricted in some states, international abortion providers like Aid Access have reportedly seen a surge in requests for medication abortions. However, on the FDA’s Q&A page for mifepristone, the agency stated that it has sent warning letters to Aid Access and other websites that sell “unapproved and misbranded mifepristone and misoprostol over the internet.”

To be certified under the FDA rules, pharmacies must be able to receive the prescriber agreement forms by email and fax, to ship mifepristone using a shipping service that provides tracking information, and to have an authorized representative who oversees the certification process and compliance.

Major pharmacy chains such as CVS and Walgreens have not confirmed whether they would apply for the certification to dispense abortion pills.

What This Means For You

An FDA regulatory change will allow certified pharmacies to dispense abortion pills in stores or by mail to patients who have a prescription from a certified health provider.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kapp N, Andersen K, Griffin R, Handayani A, Schellekens M, Gomperts R. Medical abortion at 13 or more weeks gestation provided through telemedicine: a retrospective review of servicesContracept X. 2021;3:100057. doi:10.1016/j.conx.2021.100057

  2. Aiken ARA, Starling JE, Scott JG, Gomperts R. Association of texas senate bill 8 with requests for self-managed medication abortionJAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(2):e221122-e221122. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.1122

By Daphne Lee
Daphne Lee is a senior news editor at Verywell Health.