California rescinds $54M deal with Walgreens

California Gov. Gavin Newsom withdrew a contract with Walgreens worth $54 million on March 8 after the national pharmacy chain shared conflicting plans for dispensing abortion pills. 

The contract between Walgreens and California's general services department "allows the state to procure specialty pharmacy prescription drugs," primarily used by its correctional healthcare system, according to a news release. The renewal was set for May 1, but Mr. Newsom pulled it after Walgreens told some states, not including California, that it would not dispense an abortion pill despite it being legal. 

"California will not stand by as corporations cave to extremists and cut off critical access to reproductive care and freedom," Mr. Newsom said in the release.

A Walgreens spokesperson told Becker's the company, which has more than 500 stores in California, is "deeply disappointed." Walgreens said the decision was based on "false and misleading information," and the pharmacy chain said it will dispense the abortion medication mifepristone in jurisdictions where it is legal. 

Mr. Newsom said the state is exploring alternatives to acquire the same services. 

Abortion pills, Walgreens and calls for a boycott: How we got here

As #BoycottWalgreens trends on social media after the national pharmacy chain changed its plans to distribute abortion pills in states where they're legal, Walgreens is losing a two-sided battle, according to The Washington Post

Medication abortion — a two-drug regimen that the FDA approved in 2000 and the most common way in the U.S. to end a pregnancy — is currently available, but a lawsuit in Texas may block, even momentarily, one of the drugs' availability. And Walgreens found itself in the middle of the fight. 

Mifepristone, one of the two abortion pills, was thrown into chaos after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in June. It's the first drug patients take, and it works to terminate a pregnancy by blocking progesterone. The second drug, misoprostol, then causes cramping and bleeding to empty the person's uterus, similar to an early miscarriage. 

In January, the FDA allowed some retail pharmacies to apply and distribute mifepristone. Walgreens first said it would seek certification in states where the pill is legal. Then it changed its plan after Republican attorneys general — some living in states where the pill is legal — said they would take legal action against Walgreens. 

Then, Walgreens said March 6 it plans to distribute mifepristone where it is legal. The confusion angered people for and against abortion, according to the Post. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state "won't be doing business with [...] any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women's lives at risk."

Some states have laws banning its use after a certain gestation period while others require patients to take the prescribed pill in front of a physician, thus blocking patients from getting the pills from a telemedicine appointment and taking them at home. If national pharmacy chains carried mifepristone, though, state legislatures' actions against the drug could be hindered. 

Advocacy groups for and against abortion are both angry at Walgreens, as the former says they plan to boycott the chain and the latter rebrand the company "as a new version of abortion providers," according to the Post

"It's abortion politics in your neighborhood pharmacy," Kristan Hawkins, president of anti-abortion group Students for Life of America, told the Post. "They brought this on themselves."

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