Australian Doctors Using Deadly Drug Combo for Abortions Instead of RU 486

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 19, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australian Doctors Using Deadly Drug Combo for Abortions Instead of RU 486 Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 19
, 2006

Canberra, Australia ( — Doctors in Australia are not using the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug even after the nation’s drug regulatory agency authorized its use. Instead, they are using a deadly combination of two drugs to produce abortions despite the fact that the drugs are intended to be used for other purposes.

Caroline de Costa, a Cairns, Australia-based abortion practitioner and one of the few who have been licensed to sell the abortion drug, discussed what other doctors are doing in a letter to the editor in the Medical Journal of Australia.

She said physicians are using a combination of methotrexate, a drug licensed to treat cancer patients, and misoprostol, a medicine for stomach ulcers, to produce abortions.

According to de Costa, "several hundred [physicians] annually" in the country are administering the methotrexate-misoprostol combination or just misoprostol alone "under the radar."

They’re apparently doing so because the approval process to sell the mifepristone (RU 486) abortion drug is so complex despite the Therapeutic Goods Administration authorizing a handful of abortion practitioners to sell it.

She indicated that abortions are being done using the drug combination up to 13 weeks into pregnancy and it’s being done in cases when the unborn baby supposedly has severe physical or mental "deformities."

Christine Tippet, president-elect of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, confirmed de Costa’s claims.

Tippet told The Age newspaper, "There do seem to be more people out there using methotrexate and misoprostol than we were aware of."

Both drugs are licensed in the country, and physicians are permitted to use the drugs for purposes for which they are not licensed as long as they are effective and safe.

This isn’t the first time abortion practitioners have misused the drugs to cause abortions.

British-based abortion business Marie Stopes International announced in July that it would misuse methotrexate as an alternative to RU 486 in a pilot program involving 100 women in Sydney in August.

The abortion business said if the trial was successful it would begin giving the cancer drug to women for early-term abortions at its eight Australian abortion centers in NSW, the ACT, Queensland and Western Australia. MSI also plans to open a new abortion center in Melbourne this year.

Goldstone, a senior Marie Stopes abortion practitioner heading up the trial, told The Age at the time that the mifepristone abortion drug is slightly more effective than methotrexate but he said the process of getting the RU 486 abortion drug approved nationwide was "very long-winded."

However, the Australian government and medical experts disagree.

Australian Medical Association president Mukesh Haikerwal says he is concerned about the off-label use of the drug.

"A drug that’s being used for a purpose that it’s not registered, it would certainly cause significant concern," he said. "Because obviously there is a license for which the drug is there to be used for, and if it’s used for other things it then becomes problematic."

"You’ve got to have a scientific basis for using it and need to make sure processes are properly adhered to because then that gives patients some degree of security about what’s going on and it gives some protection for the doctor who’s using that medication," he explained

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Ken Clark said methotrexate is an "experimental option" and needs to be approved before its used and Monash University chairman of obstetrics and gynecology David Healy told The Age that methotrexate was "best left as a cancer medicine."

Meanwhile, Geoff Brodie, the medical director of Australian Birth Control Services, did 60 abortions using the methotrexate drug and reported earlier this year that two of the women needed surgical abortions because the drug failed to work properly.