Unlikely ‘side effect’ of abortion ban, women can’t buy arthritis medicine

When the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade, everyone knew some things would be harder to get, the most obvious: abortions. But who knew that this decision would make the availability of certain life-saving drugs very difficult. In the weeks since the SCOTUS shutdown, multiple accounts of those struggles have come to light, AFP reports. One drug that perhaps no one thought was affected was the arthritis drug. However, recent reports have highlighted an overlooked impact of the ruling and resulting state-level abortion bans or harsh restrictions.

An AFP report recounts the experience of an Alabama nurse, Melissa, who was told that regular prescription medication for her rheumatoid arthritis was ‘on hold’ while waiting for her to be checked wasn’t going to use it to induce an abortion.

Watch | United States: will access to abortion pills be restricted?

She expressed outrage at the unfairness of the double standard that allowed one of her best male friends to have his methotrexate prescription filled without delay.

“We’re going in the wrong direction and it’s terrifying. I have two daughters. I don’t want to see that,” she said.

Although not a one-time incident, it is unclear how common they are. National groups like the American College of Rheumatology and the Lupus Foundation of America have reportedly said they are aware of the issues and are urging anyone affected to come forward.

Read also | Roe v. Wade was knocked down: How safe are abortion pills?

A second woman, a 20-year-old university student from Ohio, told AFP she had been prescribed methotrexate since 2020 to treat her lupus. She reported that a national pharmacy chain informed her that it was “no longer accepting prescriptions for methotrexate unless it is for FDA-approved use of breast cancer (treatment), or that the patient is unlikely to be fertile”.

National pharmacy giants CVS and Walmart said in statements to AFP that they were working to follow new state laws in light of the High Court’s decision to strike down the constitutional right to abortion.

To ensure patients have quick and easy access to pharmaceuticals, CVS said, “We encourage providers to include their diagnosis on the prescriptions they write.”

Read also | Roe v Wade overturned: Here’s what the decision means for millions of American women

The drug at the center of the controversy is methotrexate, which reduces inflammation and is frequently used to treat autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory arthritis, psoriasis and lupus. Higher doses are also given as a cancer treatment to inhibit cell division.

It may also be used occasionally in medical abortions, although less frequently than the FDA-approved combination of mifepristone and misoprostol.

Nevertheless, a number of states have introduced legislation that threatens legal action against medical professionals and pharmacies selling methotrexate.

(With agency contributions)

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