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US pharmacies put limit on contraception purchases — Analysis

After the Roe V Wade reverse, some pharmacy chains placed restrictions on morning-after pill sales

Multiple major US pharmacy chains, including Rite Aid and CVS, have temporarily limited orders of morning-after emergency birth control pills after a spike in demand in response to the Supreme Court’s repeal of federal abortion protections.

According to Rite Aid’s website, Rite Aid caps morning-after pill orders at three customers. While the site does not display any warnings or notices if a user searches for the pills, the “Quantity” counter maxes out at three. 

CVS released a similar statement Monday, stating that sales would be limited to just three boxes per transaction in an effort to reduce the risk of a shortage. While the chain insisted it had “There is plenty of supply” of Plan B and Aftera, two popular brands of emergency contraceptive, it cited the need to “Store shelves should be accessible to all customers and ensure consistent supply” in the statement. 

A spokesperson confirmed to The Guardian on Tuesday that the drugstore chain had seen a “Sharp increase in emergency contraceptives sales” after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v Wade last week, but said the company is working on removing the limits as sales have “Since then, life has returned to normal.” Customers should not worry about not being able to buy the pills, he said, insisting “Our stock of emergency contraceptives is always available to satisfy customer requirements..” 

Retail giant Walmart, which operates pharmacies inside its stores, told the Wall Street Journal it was limiting sales of morning-after pills like Plan B to “Four or six” for delivery orders scheduled through the end of the month, though it apparently plans to ditch the cap for July orders. A representative for the company confirmed to The Guardian that “During times of fluctuating need” its limits for online purchases change.

But not all online pharmacy chains have taken the same approach. Walgreens claimed in a statement that they were not restricting sales but its website had briefly been sold out. “Walgreens still has the ability to satisfy customer demands in-store,” the chain reassured CBS on Tuesday, claiming “Ship-to-Home orders will be restocked online by us..” As of Wednesday, the site appeared to have replenished its stock of at least two brands, with as many as 12 boxes of each available for delivery.

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Morning-after Pills work by slowing or stopping ovulation using high doses (or both) of the hormone Levonorgestrel. These pills are not considered to be abortion drugs. For those who don’t have insurance, they can cost as much as $49.99 for Plan B and $39.99 for Aftera or Take action.

After the Roe decision, attempts to buy abortion pills online have increased. Instagram and Facebook actively removed posts that offered to ship pills to people in other states. While there are several ‘telehealth’ sites offering to prescribe the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol, used in over half of US abortions, they only serve women in states where abortion remains legal, rendering them inaccessible to panic-buyers reportedly flooding social media platforms.

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