Cantwell, Colleagues Call Out 7 Major Pharmacy Chains to Protect Access to FDA-Approved Abortion Pill
Senators write to Walgreens: “At a time of great confusion about abortion access, your company has done the disservice of adding to it.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and 16 Democratic Senate colleagues in sending letters to seven of the nation’s largest retail pharmacies – Walgreens, Albertsons, Costco, Kroger, Walmart, CVS Health, and Rite Aid – urging them to provide the strongest possible legal access to the abortion pill mifepristone for patients.
In the letters, the Senators request more information about the companies’ plans to provide customers access to mifepristone and underscore the importance of ensuring patients are able to get the safe, effective and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved pill. Medication abortion, often using a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, is the most commonly used method in the U.S. to terminate pregnancy.
The letters come after the FDA announced in early January it was removing burdensome requirements and allowing retail pharmacies to dispense mifepristone directly to customers for the first time.
Following that FDA announcement, Walgreens, CVS Health, and Rite Aid responded they would pursue certification to dispense mifepristone where legally able. Last month, after more than 20 Republican attorneys general sent threatening letters to the companies, Walgreens responded that the company would not dispense the medication in their states – resulting in widespread confusion among patients and health care providers.
Albertsons, Costco, Kroger, and Walmart have not announced their plans in regards to mifepristone.
In their letter to Walgreens: The Senators called out the company’s confusing announcement about its plans to dispense mifepristone, writing: “At a time of great confusion about abortion access, your company has done the disservice of adding to it.”
The Senators demanded clarifying information about Walgreens’ plans to dispense mifepristone, and stated: “While we are well aware of threatening letters you received with regard to the distribution of mifepristone in certain states, the response to those pressures was unacceptable and appeared to yield to these threats—ignoring the critical need to ensure patients can get this essential health care wherever possible.”
“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,” the Senators added.
There is at least one Walgreens store in 65 communities in the State of Washington.
In their letters to Albertsons, Costco, Kroger, and Walmart: The Senators expressed frustration that the companies have not yet announced their intention to dispense mifepristone at their pharmacies—and urged the companies to pursue policies to provide the strongest possible access to their customers.
“We write with great frustration that [your company] has not indicated whether it plans to allow your customers to access mifepristone through your pharmacies,” the Senators stated. “Pharmacists are one of the most trusted health care providers, and your customers rely on [your company] to help them access their prescribed medications. We look forward to hearing back from you about your intentions to ensure access to this critical FDA-approved product.”
In their letters to CVS Health and Rite-Aid: the Senators applauded the companies’ plan to seek certification to dispense mifepristone where able and urged them to ensure they provide the strongest possible legal access to the drug and communicate clearly about their plans to prevent confusion for customers.
“As you continue with the FDA certification process and fully comply with state and federal law, it is critical that your company also provide the strongest possible access to this vital medication and communicate clearly about this,” the Senators wrote to CVS Health and Rite Aid.
In the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, access to medication abortion is more vital for patients than ever. Approved by the FDA more than 20 years ago, mifepristone’s safety and efficacy have been affirmed time and again by scientific evidence, research, and clinical experience—in fact, it’s safer than Tylenol. In addition to threatening pharmacies seeking to dispense the drug legally, anti-choice activists have filed an unprecedented lawsuit to try to effectively ban the drug nationwide and have enacted bans and medically-unnecessary restrictions on mifepristone in a number of states.
As a longtime champion of reproductive rights, Sen. Cantwell intensified her push to protect health care access nationwide since the Supreme Court’s decision to rule against abortion access in Dobbs v. Jackson last year. In June, after a leaked draft opinion revealed the Supreme Court’s plans to overturn the established precedent set by Roe, Sen. Cantwell cosponsored the My Body, My Data Act to protect personal reproductive health data.
In July, following a press conference with abortion providers at the University of Washington Medical Center, Sen. Cantwell cosponsored the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act to ban anti-choice states from penalizing or prosecuting health care providers that offer reproductive services in states where abortion care is legal. The same month, Sen. Cantwell also cosponsored the Right to Contraception Act, which would codify the right to contraception access established by the Supreme Court ruling Griswold v. Connecticut. In March, Sen. Cantwell joined 47 Democratic Colleagues in reintroducing the Women’s Health Protection Act, and spoke on the Senate floor. Last week, on Abortion Providers Appreciation Day, Sen. Cantwell joined Sen. Murray for a roundtable discussion at Planned Parenthood in Seattle to discuss the fight ahead to protect abortion rights.
View the Senate signers and read the letter sent to WALGREENS.
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