Original Research Article| Volume 104, ISSUE 1, P98-103, July 2021

Expanding access to medication abortion through pharmacy dispensing of mifepristone: Primary care perspectives from Illinois



      Medication abortion is safe and effective, yet access is limited by a strict Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) that prohibits pharmacy dispensing of mifepristone. Given the ability of primary care providers (PCPs) to expand medication abortion access, we assessed PCP perspectives on how lifting the mifepristone REMS would affect the provision of medication abortion in primary care.

      Study design

      We conducted a qualitative study of PCPs and administrators in Illinois with experience or interest in providing medication abortion care at their practice. The final sample (N=19) consisted of seven family medicine physicians, three nurse practitioners, four certified nurse midwives, and five administrators. We queried participants on how removing the REMS to allow pharmacy dispensing of mifepristone would affect their ability to provide medication abortion. We conducted interviews via telephone and used ATLAS.ti to manage our transcripts; we analyzed these data for major themes regarding pharmacy dispensing.


      Primary care providers expressed support for pharmacy dispensing due to its ability to help normalize medication abortion, reduce implementation barriers in primary care, and expand abortion access. Further challenges to address if the REMS restrictions are lifted include federal funding restrictions on abortion, concerns about unsupervised mifepristone use, and pharmacy cooperation.


      Removing the mifepristone REMS to allow pharmacy dispensing could help normalize medication abortion care, facilitate provision in primary care, and address disparities in abortion access.


      Our findings illuminate novel benefits of removing the mifepristone REMS and highlight methods to promote successful implementation of pharmacy dispensing. Combined with prior literature, these results support prompt reevaluation and removal of the REMS to align medication abortion care with evidence-based practices.


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