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CVS and Rite Aid limit emergency contraceptive purchases as demand surges after Roe ruling

Plan B hard to find at some CVS stores in downtown Boston, though CVS says limits will soon be lifted

Plan B One-Step birth control was advertised at a CVS Pharmacy in Boston.Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal/Photographer: Lindsey Nicholson/

The shelf where emergency contraceptive pill Plan B typically sits at a CVS store on Washington Street in downtown Boston was empty Tuesday morning, less than a day after the Rhode Island-based pharmacy giant said it would be limiting purchases of the medication. Another CVS on Cambridge Street was down to three boxes.

The announcement comes as demand for the pill surges following last week’s US Supreme Court decision that struck down the constitutional right to abortion, leading some states — though not Massachusetts — to immediately outlaw the procedure.

On Monday, a spokesperson for CVS — which has roughly 400 stores in Massachusetts — told Bloomberg News that the drugstore giant would temporarily limiting purchases to three pills per customer to ensure equitable access and consistent supply on store shelves. By late Tuesday, they were getting ready to lift the limits and resume normal sales.

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“Immediately following the Supreme Court decision, we saw a sharp increase in the sale of emergency contraceptives and implemented a temporary purchase limit to ensure equitable access,” the company said in a statement to the Globe. “Sales have since returned to normal and we’re in the process of removing the purchase limits, which will take effect in-store and on CVS.com over the next 24 hours. We continue to have ample supply of emergency contraceptives to meet customer needs.”

Pharmacy chain Rite Aid also limited purchases of Plan B to three per customer due to increased demand, a spokesperson for the company said.

The court’s decision allowing individuals states to ban abortion stands to have a strong and long-lasting impact on many dimensions of health care. Insurers and clinicians are already planning for pregnant people to cross state lines to seek procedures, leaving employers, insurers, and advocacy groups to grapple with the costs and logistics.

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Some chains haven’t put limits on the medications. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. hasn’t taken such steps, a spokesperson said. Representatives of Walmart didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

News of the limits on purchases was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

Kelso & Co. and Juggernaut Capital Partners, which bought Plan B One-Step from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries in 2017, didn’t immediately respond to request for comment. The two firms operate a company called Foundation Consumer Healthcare that manages the product.

Last week’s historic ruling is likely to make abortions largely illegal in half the country. Twenty-six states either will or are likely to ban almost all abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that backs abortion rights. Thirteen have so-called trigger laws designed to automatically outlaw abortion when Roe was overturned.

Many people have already been preparing for what activists have described as a public-health emergency. Last month, when a draft of the Supreme Court opinion was leaked, online searches surged for over-the-counter emergency contraceptive medication, while increasing numbers made appointments to get intrauterine devices that provide long-term birth control.

Material from Bloomberg was used in this report.


Annie Probert can be reached at annie.probert@globe.com.