Canada Approval of Abortion Drug Shelved Since Woman’s Death

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 25, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canada Approval of Abortion Drug Shelved Since Woman’s Death Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 25, 2005

Ottawa, Canada ( — The abortion drug RU 486, responsible for the deaths of women around the world and four recent deaths in the United States, is not available in Canada. The reason may have more to do with red tape than political debates.

The manufacturer of the mifepristone abortion drug won’t apply for a permit to sell the pills in Canada until Health Canada, the governmental health agency, extends an invitation. But, that may not happen because federal policy prohibits the agency from doing that.

Even if a request for an application to sell the abortion drug in Canada moves forward, pro-life advocates will likely oppose it because of the danger to women. Four American women have died since 2003 and one Canadian woman is dead as well as a result of the abortion pill.

The Canadian woman died after using the drugs during a trial run. She had an ectopic pregnancy and women with such a condition are advised to never use the RU 486 abortion pill because it could lead to death.

Despite the deaths, former British Columbia health minister Penny Priddy is calling on Liberal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh to bypass the normal approval process and allow sales of the abortion pills.

"Surely, between the minister of health and Health Canada, they can find a solution," she told the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.

She hopes the Canadian government will follow in the footsteps of former President Bill Clinton, whose administration approved the abortion drug for sale int he United States by contravening normal approval processes.

In 2000, Clinton had the Food and Drug Administration use a process known as "Subpart H," normally reserved for drugs needing faster approval to treat life-threatening diseases. Pro-life advocates were aghast when the agency considered a pregnancy a "life-threatening" diseases.

Rhonda Wood of the Campaign Life Coalition says she hopes the drug is not approved in her country. She pointed the Citizens newspaper to other serious complications resulting from the drug and noted that it produces a week-long miscarriage process, which in unfair to women.

"I’ve had a miscarriage. It’s awful," Wood said. "To make a woman wait like that, it’s unfair."

The death of the Canadian woman on August 28, 2001 ultimately shut down early clinical trials designed to secure approval of the abortion drugs. A hospital pathologist said the abortion drug caused the woman to go into septic shock.

"If that death hadn’t happened, I’m sure we would have the drug by now," Joyce Arthur of the Vancouver-based Pro-Choice Action Network, told the Ottawa paper.

Vancouver abortion practitioner Ellen Wiebe, who conducted the first trials, says she has been asking Danco Laboratories, the U.S. manufacturer, for more drugs for years to keep the trials going. She says Danco is stalling and has told her since 2001 that it is reviewing the situation.

Wiebe said Danco officials told her this week that the Canadian approval process was too complex and expensive.

"Danco is still potentially interested in bringing Mifeprex to the Canadian market; however, we would need to reach an agreement with Health Canada regarding some of the obstacles," Danco spokeswoman Cynthia Summers told the Citizen.

Summers said one problem is that the health agency requires companies to be located in Canada. Danco is based in New York and has had problems finding a Canadian distributor.

There were 105,154 abortions performed in Canada in 2002, according to Statistics Canada.

Some 15.4 of every 1,000 Canadian women 14 to 44 years old had an abortion in 2002, a rate which has been steady since the Canadian Supreme Court ruled abortions could be allowed in 1988.