Walmart reverses North Carolina policy that limited drug used for miscarriages

Three months after the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade tossed multiple medications into a whirlwind of legal confusion and disputes at the pharmacy counter, Walmart stopped requiring North Carolina pharmacy workers to confirm misoprostol was not intended for an abortion. 

Walmart told North Carolina pharmacies in an August memo to hold back some misoprostol prescriptions in accordance with a state law requiring a physician prescribing an abortion drug to be in the same room as the patient when it is administered — which is also required in 18 other states, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

After local news outlets picked up the story and members of Congress from North Carolina penned a letter to the company, Walmart reversed its policy Oct. 7, according to Rep. Kathy Manning.

"The women and girls of North Carolina have the right to obtain the prescription medication their doctors prescribe without unnecessary restrictions placed on them by Walmart," Ms. Manning said in an Oct. 11 statement. 

Walmart told Becker's it reversed the policy after the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy clarified that the state law does not apply to pharmacists.

Misoprostol is an FDA-approved drug that can be prescribed to prevent ulcers, treat arthritis pain or open the cervix. It's also one of the two drugs used in medication abortion, a regimen intended to end a pregnancy within the first 10 weeks. 

Pharmacy policies have fluctuated since the Supreme Court's June 24 ruling. One health system with locations in Kansas and Missouri briefly stopped distributing emergency contraceptives for a day because of confusion about Missouri's abortion law. In some states, CVS requires pharmacy workers to obtain a physician's note that states prescriptions for misoprostol and methotrexate — which can cause miscarriage — aren't intended to end a pregnancy. 

Murmurs of strained access to misoprostol began popping up on social media in the weeks following the landmark decision, and has since resulted in viral posts and New York's attorney general and Illinois senators urging retail pharmacies to change their policies on reproductive health products.

Editor's note: This story was updated Oct. 12 at 11:30 a.m. to include a statement from Walmart. 

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