Australian Women Taking Dangerous Abortion Drug in Large Numbers

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 22, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 22,

Canberra, Australia ( — An Australian professor has released a new report claiming the pharmaceutical companies have failed women there because no corporation is interested in manufacturing and distributing the abortion drug there. As a result, Professor Nicholas Fisk, from the University of Queensland, says women are misusing parts of the abortion drug.

Abortion advocates in Australia have come under fire before for telling women to misuse an ulcer drug that companies making the abortion drug use in conjunction with the pill.

Fisk complains that the huge cost of drug trials in Australia is preventing companies from marketing the mifepristone, or RU 486, abortion pill there.

"The market has failed pregnant women,” Fisk wrote in the international journal PLoS Medicine, which published his report. "Seventy-five per cent of pregnant women are taking at least one drug for which safety data are unavailable."

In August, Westmead Hospital in Sydney became the second medical center in Australia authorized to sell the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug and the third facility nationwide. That came just days after the TGA allowed 10 physicians at Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne to use it.

Cairns abortion practitioner Caroline De Costa and one of her colleagues were the first to be allowed to use the abortion drug when the TGA gave them that authority in April 2006.

The abortion drug is not sold nationwide because no pharmaceutical company has applied for a license. In order for a business to import and sell the abortion drug nationwide, they need Authorized Prescriber status from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

In May 2007, Marie Stopes International, a British-based abortion business, announced that it would move ahead with its decision to misuse an anti-cancer drug to cause abortions. MSI officials said they would use methotrexate at their NSW, Queensland and West Australian facilities.

Marie Stopes operations manager Jill Michelson said she would prefer to use RU 486, claiming it is safer, but said MSI can no longer wait on a company to sell it nationwide.

"We feel fairly comfortable that we can now spread that across Australia and, of course, as part of that we needed to ensure all our team members in each state were appropriately educated," she told the Herald Sun newspaper.

Methotrexate is not approved as an abortion drug and it is licensed in Australia for use as an anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer treatment. Doctors, under Australian law, can use any drug for another purpose as long as the patient consents.

MSI tested the drugs in a pilot program involving 100 women in Sydney in August. Its top abortion practitioner Philip Goldstone told The West newspaper that none of the women suffered any complications other than diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

While MSI appears to be putting women at risk, other abortion practitioners aren’t following their lead.

Despite MSI’s decision, Ian Roberts, from East Melbourne’s Fertility Control Clinic, said other facilities are not going to use methotrexate because there is a danger that they would cause incomplete abortions and result in babies born with physical disabilities.

"You need a very compliant patient to come back otherwise you are opening the gates . . . to the possibility of congenital deformities," Roberts told the Sun newspaper.

Thirteen women from the United States, Canada, England, France and Sweden have died after using the abortion drug mifepristone. In several cases in the U.S. women contracted a lethal bacterial virus shortly after using it.

FDA figures show that, in the United States alone, more than 1,150 women have had medical problems after using the abortion drug. In addition to the deaths there have been nine life-threatening incidents, 116 blood transfusions, and 232 hospitalizations.

Australian Medical Association president Mukesh Haikerwal previously said 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.