Health Canada approved the abortion drug Mifegymiso in 2015 for use in 2016, but thus far its Canadian distributor, Celopharma Inc., has yet to make the so-called “gold standard” in medical abortion available in Canada.

In early December, the Canadian Press reported on the status of Mifegymiso, which used to go by the name RU-486, saying “the drug’s Canadian distributor, Celopharma Inc., says it now expects to launch “some time in January.” The CP added, “Company president Paula Tanenbaum gave few details in a terse email exchange but said it was related to ‘a change in manufacturing site’.”

Celopharma issued a press release on Dec. 14 with the title “official update.” It stated, “Mifegymiso (RU-486 early termination pill) will become available for use by women throughout Canada” effective “late January.”

The release quoted Tanenbaum saying, “this is a significant day that promises to improve the lives of Canadian women” because “it expands the choices available to women across the country who need early termination of their pregnancy.”

Mifegymiso is a combination medication comprised of Mifepristone and Misoprostol. Taken together, Celopharma explains, “the drug mimics a miscarriage and expels a pregnancy in someone up to seven weeks pregnant.”

Tanenbaum said Celopharma and the drugs manufacturer, Linepharma International Ltd., “very much appreciate the wonderful work of Health Canada and CADTH and the fairness they have both demonstrated towards the success of our application.”

CADTH is the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Canada which conducts a review of products including pharmaceuticals to determine if they should be covered by provincial drug plans. In early 2016, Celopharma said they would not pay the application costs for CADTH but reversed itself under pressure from the National Abortion Federation and the British Columbia government.

The BC government also pressed Health Canada to relax its restrictions on the drug, including requiring several visits to a physician and mandating that only doctors dispense the drug. The restrictions were requested by Linepharma.

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes told The Interim he is disappointed and concerned that the abortion drug is available in Canada. He said that while Mifegymiso is billed as safe for women, there are serious complications from the abortion pill including in some cases death. But he added that “any abortion, whether by pill or not, is always unsafe for the unborn child.”

Hughes also pointed to recent studies that show half of all US abortions are chemical abortions while in Scotland and Finland they represent at least 80 per cent of all abortions. “Popping a pill to kill a child early in pregnancy will further desensitize the medical establishment and our culture to the killing of preborn children.”