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Pharmacies can now fill medical abortion prescriptions under new FDA rules

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The Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday that abortion pills can now be offered at retail pharmacies in the United States, a major policy change that could significantly expand Americans’ access to medical abortion.

The FDA announced the new rules for abortion pills after a year of negotiations with the two companies that make the pills. Previously, patients could only receive drugs from certain mail-order pharmacies or from doctors and clinics that went through a certification process. Now, patients will still need to get a prescription from a certified healthcare provider, but any pharmacy that accepts a prescription can fill it as long as it meets confidentiality and other criteria, The New York Times reports.

Some states still ban abortion and 18 others require the presence of a doctor to prescribe the pills, which limits the use of telemedicine. But the change will expand access to millions of people who could take the pills at neighborhood or retail pharmacies like other prescriptions.

Medical abortion uses mifepristone and misoprostol, two different drugs – in combination or alone – that induce abortion. The diet was approved by the FDA in 2000 for use during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and already accounts for about half of all abortions in the United States.

Experts expect medical abortion to be used more frequently by women and those giving birth after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, prompting more than half of the states to ban or severely limit abortion.

“By allowing physical pharmacies to provide medical abortion care, the FDA is treating medical abortion as the safe, effective, and urgent care that it is,” said Kristen Moore, director of the Expanding Medication Abortion Access Project. A declaration. “Today’s announcement means that people who live in states that have not banned medical abortion care will soon be able to walk into and out of their neighborhood pharmacy with their medication in hand.”

Patients in states where abortion is banned can still try to access the pills through online consultations and doctors abroad. Aid Access, an Austria-based telemedicine service, mails abortion pills to people in the United States who seek help from doctors in Europe who face little legal risk in doing so. Requests for medical abortion have skyrocketed in recent months, even after the Supreme Court ruling.

As states have threatened to target Americans seeking abortion services across state lines, President Joe Biden has pledged to protect and expand access to medical abortion and protect patient privacy.

The FDA said in December it would eliminate the requirement for patients to obtain mifepristone in person from healthcare providers, a major expansion of telemedicine that allowed people to obtain the pills by mail. This in-person rule was officially removed from FDA regulations on Tuesday.

The FDA change does not guarantee that major pharmacies will immediately begin filling medical abortion prescriptions, the Times added. For some, the administrative and logistical challenges might be too much. Some chains might also worry about the optics of filling prescriptions amid the political storm surrounding abortion.

Read the full New York Times report here.

The Huffington Gt

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