Despite a vow from Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom to halt all state business with Walgreens for failing to sell abortion pills by mail in some U.S. states, it’s become quickly apparent the megapharmacy has not yet reached the end of the line in the Golden State.
Instead, California taxpayers will still be paying the pharmacy roughly $1.5 billion annually regardless of Newsom’s pronouncement.
The backstory: Newsom’s row with Walgreens arose after the company announced that it would not distribute abortion pills by mail in some conservative states following bans enacted in the wake of the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
- The pill, mifepristone, combined with another medication will end a pregnancy and has been approved for use in the U.S. since 2000.
- Earlier this year, attorneys general in 20 states, mostly with Republican governors, warned Walgreens it could face legal consequences if it distributed mifepristone in their states. Walgreens responded by saying it would not distribute mifepristone in states where it is not legal to do so.
- Last month, Newsom tweeted out “California won’t be doing business with @Walgreens — or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk. We’re done.”
- Newsom’s administration opted against renewing a $54 million procurement contract to provide prescription medications to the state’s prison system.
Driving the news: However, Medi-Cal, the state’s joint Federal and state Medicaid program, is slated to spend more than $1.5 billion with the pharmacy to provide drugs for poor and disabled Californians.
- Barring Medi-Cal recipients from utilizing Walgreens’ services would violate a key Federal provision of Medicaid, which allows patients to seek prescriptions from any willing and qualified provider – Walgreens included.
- California’s Department of Health Care Services confirmed that the state will comply with this law and that it has no intention of violating federal Medicaid requirements or undermining access for low-income individuals.
- Several states have taken steps to restrict mifepristone, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal abortion protections last year. Earlier this year, attorneys general in 20 states, mostly with Republican governors, warned Walgreens it could face legal consequences if it distributed mifepristone in their states. Walgreens responded by saying it would not distribute mifepristone in states where it is not legal to do so.
- Mifepristone has been at the center of two conflicting Federal court rulings in Washington and Texas over its FDA approval. Despite U.S. District Court Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk ruling to invalidate the approval, he stayed his ruling for seven days to allow for appeal by the Department of Justice.
What they’re saying: “Tweeting is not policy,” Newsom spokesman Anthony York told Kaiser Health News in response to the conflict regarding his boss’s own statements.
- “Walgreens plans to dispense mifepristone in any jurisdiction where it is legally permissible to do so,” Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman said. “Once we are certified by the FDA, we will dispense this medication consistent with federal and state laws. Providing legally approved medications to patients is what pharmacies do, and is rooted in our commitment to the communities in which we operate.”