FDA paves way for sale of abortion pill in retail pharmacies

Jacksonville pharmacist believes expansion could lead to safety, ethical issues

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – People could soon get the abortion pill at retail pharmacies.

The Food and Drug Administration is making a regulatory change to allow the sale. Executives at Walgreens and CVS both say they plan to carry it where it’s permitted.

Abortion-rights advocates are applauding the FDA’s decision, while anti-abortion-rights groups strongly oppose it.

In Florida, there’s a ban on abortions after 15 weeks, which is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The pill would be legal in the Sunshine State up until 10 weeks gestation, if properly prescribed.

The medication, called mifepristone, was previously only available for people to get at an authorized doctor’s office or through special mail order.

Dr. Kevin Duane, a pharmacist and owner of Panama Pharmacy in Jacksonville, contends this new move opens the door to problems.

“As it stands, you’ve had several dozen deaths reported with the medication,” he said. “We could see adverse events, including death expand if access was expanded.”

Ethically and morally, just like traditional abortions, many medical providers oppose terminating a pregnancy no matter the circumstances. It brings to light whether pharmacists have the right to refuse.

“In this state (Florida), certainly,” Duane said. “It’s one of the things that concerns me, though. Because if you own a pharmacy, then you can make the decisions. But for pharmacists who may work for a large corporation, they may not have the luxury of being able to refuse certain things and keep their jobs.”

Many pharmacies already sell Plan B pills. In fact, customers don’t even need a prescription for those. These pills are different.

Plan B is an emergency contraceptive used to prevent pregnancy. An abortion pill is used to end an existing pregnancy and requires a prescription from a doctor with specific credentials.

There’s also talk that down the road the pills could be prescribed online.

“I worry about that if this is expanded through the use of telemedicine, where you can get a prescription without a physical visit, which is something that is visited and revisited right now,” Duane said.

The move is part of the Biden administration’s push to expand access to abortions, as many conservative states work to ban it. No word yet on when the pills could hit shelves in Florida.

LINK: FDA’s questions and answers: Mifepristone for medical termination of pregnancy through 10 weeks gestation

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Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.