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Walgreens, CVS probed by feds over denial of meds after Roe overturned

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The federal government launched a probe into whether the nation’s largest drug store chains — including Walgreens and CVS — have refused to dispense meds that may induce abortions after Roe v. Wade was overturned.

“Since Dobbs & state laws which have gone into effect, HHS has received complaints about chain pharmacies across the U.S. for not complying w/ their federal obligations to fill prescriptions,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tweeted Oct. 14.

He added that the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights opened investigations into retail pharmacy chains.

The Supreme Court scrapped the landmark law in June with its ruling within the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

A month after the Supreme Court decision, HHS issued guidance to around 60,000 retail pharmacies related to Medicare and Medicaid payments taking federal financial assistance for patients’ rights to access reproductive healthcare from their outlets, including contraceptives prescribed to them. 

CVS is the biggest retail pharmacy chain with over 9,900 retail locations in all 50 states and manages about 2.5 billion prescriptions every yr.Christopher Sadowski

HHS later clarified that emergency abortions were legal in every state — no matter local law — and said retail pharmacies must proceed distributing drugs affected by the ruling. 

Nonetheless, those that take methotrexate, a drug that may be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, said they’d difficulty getting their medication since may induce an abortion.

One other drug, misoprostol, a medicine used before IUD insertions that may treat stomach ulcers, also has been allegedly denied to some customers. 

HHS confirmed that methotrexate and emergency contraceptives are protected under federal law.

The pharmacy chains have been thrust in the midst of the national debate about abortion, with several states banning the procedure after the high court’s decision.

“Laws in select states restrict the shelling out of medicines that could be prescribed for the aim of inducing an abortion,” said a CVS spokesperson. “Our pharmacists, like other healthcare providers, are caught in the center on this issue. In certain cases, they could face criminal charges for shelling out medications for this purpose.”

HHS issued guidance to about 60,000 retail pharmacies to protect patients’ rights to access reproductive health care from an establishment. HHS issued guidance to about 60,000 retail pharmacies to guard patients’ rights to access reproductive health care from an institution. Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images

CVS, the biggest retail pharmacy chain with over 9,900 retail locations in all 50 states,  said it’s committed to supporting women’s health care. The chain manages over 2.5 billion prescriptions every yr. 

Walgreens, which has about 8,965 stores and handled over 1.2 billion prescriptions in 2021, also said it’s cooperating with HHS’ policies. 

“Our pharmacists will proceed to work closely with prescribers as obligatory, to fill lawful, clinically appropriate prescriptions,” said Scott Goldberg, the director of corporate communications at Walgreens Boots Alliance. “Our top priority is ensuring our patients have access to the medications they need from pharmacists they know and trust.” 

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