An agreement between the drug company which manufactures the abortion pill, and a population control group could lead to the drug’s availability in the United States.
The France-based pharmaceutical giant Roussel-Uclaf has reached an agreement with the non-profit Population Council to test RU-486 on 2,000 U.S. women this fall. The Population Council will choose a drug company to manufacture and distribute the drug in the U.S.
The agreement ends speculation as to what direction Roussel-Uclaf will take with the drug. Despite pressure from the Clinton administration to introduce the pill to the U.S., the company had balked on testing, fearing boycotts of other pharmaceutical products from pro-life organizations. The possibility of medical malpractice suits also played a large role in discouraging the company.
The Population Council is a U.S. government-funded organization which aims to decrease population in developing nations. In effect, the U.S. government is bringing RU-486 into the country under the cloak of the Population Council. Congresswoman Pat Schroeder declared the agreement a victory for women saying that “the medical McCarthyism affecting women and their organs has now disappeared.”
Food and Drug Administration officials cautioned that RU-486 will not be an over-the-counter drug and will be given by specially trained doctors with access to hospitals in case of complications. “Women should not think that pregnancy termination using a medical regimen will be simple. It will not be,” warned FDA commissioner David Kessler.
RU-486 works by blocking the hormone progesterone which is crucial in the continuation of the pregnancy. After a period of several days, the woman takes a dose of prostaglandins which cause contractions and expels the dead baby. At least one woman has died from using the pill and many others have reported heavy bleeding and nausea. Reports also show that many women, after using the abortion pill, are opting instead for surgical abortions.
Officials at the FDA claim that the drug should not meet many roadblocks on its way to approval.
So far in Canada, RU-486 has not been scheduled to go through any testing as an abortion pill, but it is being touted as a possible treatment for breast cancer.
A spokeswoman for Roussel-Uclaf says that unless the federal government invites them to test the pill in Canada it will not apply for entry. The company has a policy of only entering a country where it has been specifically invited by the government. An official from Roussel-Uclaf said that the company will not get involved where “there is a conflict about abortion.”
However, a spokesman for the health ministry said the department does not usually issue invitations and there will be a long wait. “They’re going to wait a long time before they’re invited,” claimed the official, “It doesn’t work that way.”