An abortion pill called a contra gestation pill may be marketed in Canada if abortion is not considered a criminal act in the future, a large Montreal-based pharmaceutical firm hinted recently Roussel Canada Inc., is considering asking the Health Protection Branch of the federal government for permission to market the drug RU-486 under the name Mifespristine, in Canada. The drug causes an abortion at an estimated cost of under $4 for a single dose.
Early last year the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion section of the Criminal Code because it was alleged to interfere with a woman’s constitutional rights. If the present parliament proves to be pro-abortion, Roussel will likely seek marketing approval.
“What I will say is ‘not for the time being’ – but that does not rule out a submission in six months or a year,” Dr. Jacques Gareau, Roussel’s medical director, told The Interim in November 1988. He was interviewed on the phone for this article. Dr. Garneau wanted to know what position The Interim took on this subject. When he discovered we were a pro-live, pro-family newspaper, he was guarded in his comments.
France was the first western country to give its approval to the “killer pill” when they approved RU-486 recently (a title to cover it when it had no generic name), under the trade name there of Mifegyne. The French government has a vested interest in its success because it owns 40 per cent of Roussel Uclaf. The other 60 per cent is owned by Hoechst, a large German pharmaceutical company which in turn, is owned by I.G. Farben, the giant chemical conglomerate.
Dr. Garneau said RU-486 has been under limited study for the past year in Canada in the Montreal area on two groups, one a non-pregnant, sterile group of women; and the other, of pregnant women who had, he claimed, secured the permission of a hospital abortion referral committee. According to Dr. Garneau, there were apparently no ill effects on the first group.
Apparently the experiment with the second group was also considered a “success” by Roussel. This experiment was conducted in conjunction with the surgical aspiration (vacuum) abortion operation. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the effect of RU-486 on cervical dilation and assess its effectiveness.
Dr. Garneau said: “Study, yes; abortion, no.” He said that once a hospital therapeutic committee had agreed with a woman’s request for an abortion that the purpose was not to abort but to “facilitate the suction procedure aspiration methods.”
If RU-486 did not work, according to Dr. Garneau, the abortion would have to proceed. He saw it as a useful aid in conducting abortions. Roussel Uclaf Laboratories, the parent firm, markets 14 products in Canada, including hormones, suppositories, antibiotic, anti-arthritic drugs, etc.
RU-486 is an agent or drug that acts against the hormone progesterone, a natural hormone that sustains pregnancy. It is taken as an oral tablet and is an abortifacient.
China is the only other country that has approved the use of RU-486. Experiments have shown a more than 95 per cent “success” rate in using the drug. Jean-Michel Alexandre, president of the Medical Sales Commission in France, according to a Reuters report, recently stressed that the drug was not a “morning-after” pill that could be used as a contraceptive. The president stated that the main drawback to the new drug was that it could cause malformation to a baby who survived.
Dr. Etienne-Emile Beaulieu, a researcher of the drug for Roussel Uclaf since 1982, said: “Ru-486 could replace most of the surgical abortions up to the first ten weeks of the last menstrual. This constitutes 80 per cent of the abortions.”
In Beaulieu’s view the abortion pill would significantly “cool” the acrimonious and divisive public debate by dramatically reducing the number of surgical abortions. But according to Dr. Carmelo Scime, a Canadian medical doctor of Hamilton, Ontario, Beaulieu is now talking about women taking the pill monthly – whether the women is pregnant or not – or a month after she is pregnant, or even before!
Dr. Scime states that if RU-486 is taken very early in the pregnancy, after a few days it would be very much as if a woman was just having a heavy period. This action might make it difficult for the woman to carry any future pregnancies to term because the pill forces the cervix open unnaturally, straining the muscles and causing other possible injuries. Because of the newness of the pill we do not have any data on this.
Bonnie Fox-McIntyre of the Health Protection Branch in Ottawa believes that government approval “would depend on the climate of abortion laws in Canada. It takes several months to two or three years to approve a drug for marketing,” she said. And “if abortion is once again written into the Criminal Code, we couldn’t even consider RU-486. We can’t judge what will happen.”
Dr. John Pugsley, a professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy in Toronto, thought that it would never be available through pharmacies and only available on special occasions and under very close supervision to hospitals.
RU-486 is a drug which causes contractions, loosening the fetus from the wall of the womb and induces an abortion, he said. Unlike dinoprostone, a prostaglandin that is used to bring post-mature pregnancies to term.
Dr. Pugsley said that it was impossible to determine the value and long-term effects of any new drug because of the usual small group tested initially. He didn’t think that there would be many firms “hopping on the bandwagon” to make a similar drug to RU-486.
But why would Roussel make a “killer pill” if they weren’t going to sell it? And sells many as they could?
RU-486 is the silent “killer pill” that abortionists have always sought.