News Release

Abortion Bans May Limit Access to Certain Drugs Used to Treat Women with Cancer, Autoimmune Diseases, and Ulcers

A new KFF analysis finds that women comprise the majority of patients who rely on certain drugs that may be restricted in response to state abortion bans. Following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, some women in abortion-banning states have reported that clinicians and pharmacists denied them access to medications like methotrexate and misoprostol that are used to manage chronic conditions but are also used for medication abortions and treatment of ectopic pregnancies.

Clinicians prescribe methotrexate, which is harmful to fetuses and used to treat ectopic pregnancies, to also manage autoimmune diseases including Crohn’s disease and lupus as well as certain cancers. Misoprostol is one of the drugs that is taken as part of a medication abortion typically with mifepristone, and is also prescribed for miscarriage management, to induce labor, and reduce the risk of ulcers caused by medications like aspirin and ibuprofen. 

This analysis used a large claims database of enrollees in large employer plans to look at the gender, age, and common diagnoses of people with methotrexate and misoprostol prescriptions in 2019. Key findings include the following:

  • Seven in ten people with a methotrexate prescription were women. Among women of childbearing age (ages 18-49) with methotrexate prescriptions, 92% were not pregnant in the year. Among those who were not pregnant, the vast majority had an autoimmune disease and about one in five had a cancer diagnosis at some point in the year.
  • Among women of childbearing age with misoprostol prescriptions, 97% were women and 61% were not pregnant. The majority of non-pregnant women had a diagnosis for which misoprostol would be needed in preparation for a cervical procedure such as intrauterine device (IUD) insertions, while another one in three were diagnosed with abnormal bleeding.

Read “Abortion Bans May Limit Essential Medications for Women with Chronic Conditions” to learn more.

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