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Phoenix pharmacist: Losing ability to prescribe mifepristone would be a 'travesty'

By WBUR
Published: Thursday, March 28, 2024 - 10:49am

Mifeprex mifepristone abortion pill package
Danco Laboratories, LLC
Mifeprex packaging.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments about access to a medication that was used in nearly two-thirds of all abortions in the U.S. last year, in the court’s first abortion case since conservative justices overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago.

Pharmacists are watching the Supreme Court case. As of last year, the FDA allowed pharmacies to fill mifepristone prescriptions.

Mayur Dev is head pharmacist at Phoenix's Fairmont Pharmacy, which dispenses the pill.

Full interview

SCOTT TANG: So for a while, patients could only get these abortion pills from doctors. Now, how does it work with your pharmacy? Do you dispense Mifepristone the same way you fill any other prescription?

MAYUR DEV: Yes and no. We actually have to go through some, actually some guidelines to actually get the medication in the pharmacy. It's not one that's available through our normal wholesaler. There's a program where you'd have to become a, a certified pharmacy.

So, we would have a patient come to the pharmacy and we, you know, double-check that it's coming from a health-care provider that's been through this program. And then there's like a patient agreement form that needs to be filled out between the patient and the pharmacist. And then go ahead and give the medication to the patient.

TANG: Do you interact much with patients, filling these prescriptions? I'm curious what they might tell you about why they're doing this.

DEV: We have a lot of interaction with the patients. We, it's actually mandatory that we counsel the patient when they come and get this medication. And at the time when we first started this, we were one of the very few pharmacies that were actually carrying it in Phoenix. So we had other pharmacists send patients to us, and when these patients do come to us, they are so grateful that we carry it.

TANG: I just wonder, is there a conversation that kind of stays with you?

DEV: Actually, every one of them does. When you hear the stories of, of why a certain individual is, is getting on this medication, it actually will bring a tear to your eye, because it is that touching and it is that important for that individual, whether it could be life, lifesaving or whatever reason why you decided to do this.

TANG: Are there pharmacists you know who feel uncomfortable filling these prescriptions for their own reasons?

DEV: I've, I've spoken to some colleagues and they don't have the same thought process as I do, for whatever reason. I can't, you know, blame them for it. But, you know, they don't want to have access to this medication to dispense it to people. For me, it's a little troubling because if we all got in this to take care of the health of individuals as we do with, you know, from pediatric patients all the way to the elderly. This falls right in that guidelines.

And finally, you know, across the country from you, of course, the US Supreme Court is considering a case that goes to the FDA's underlying approval of mifepristone. The court could reduce, it could end access to this. If that happens, what is your own view of the implications for the patients who serve?

DEV: Well, we, I think what's being lost in this also is mifepristone is actually used for other indications. It could be used for, you know, Cushing syndrome or uterine leiomyoma. So, you know, there's other populations of patients that if they restrict this or get rid of it, you know, those patients are gonna suffer also.

TANG: So it sounds like, yeah, you have your job to do, you will be watching this case somewhat closely yourself.

DEV: Yeah, I will be. If you've helped the people that we've helped with this medication, you might forget their name, but you will not forget the story and you know, the tears that you shed and patient sheds by, you know, when you're sitting there and you're talking to them about this sort of, you know, and confidential, like, you know, this is what you're you're getting and, and it's just like, you know, it touches your heart. And you know, to be denied that the ability to help people in this manner, I think it's a travesty.

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