The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now allows retail pharmacies to sell mifepristone, the first pill used in a two-drug medication abortion regimen.
The drug will be available at all certified pharmacies that meet the criteria of the Mifepristone Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) Program. However, to buy the pill, patients will still need a prescription from a certified health care provider.
Until now, only a handful of mail-order pharmacies or specially certified clinics could provide mifepristone.
The agency did not issue a statement on changing the regulation but updated its website's Questions and answers section on Tuesday.
Mifepristone works by blocking progesterone, a hormone necessary for a pregnancy to continue. It is used with another medicine, misoprostol, to end a pregnancy through ten weeks gestation, up to 70 days after the first day of the last menstrual period. Misoprostol is taken 24 to 48 hours after mifepristone.
The FDA's decision comes when more and more women choose abortion pills. In 2020, medication abortion accounted for 53% of abortions in the U.S., up from 39% in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
However, access to abortion, including medication abortion, was restricted last year when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark ruling that protected abortion rights on a federal level.
Following the decision, the number of requests for unregulated abortion pills from third countries increased, leaving women vulnerable to severe side effects.