Pharmacists for Life International is disputing mainstream media reports of “safe and quick” home abortion techniques using drugs already available for other uses.
The reports say an American researcher has discovered that a combination of methotrexate (a drug used in chemotherapy) and misoprostol (a gastr-intestinal medicine) can induce abortions in 96 per cent of women during their first nine weeks of pregnancy. The methotrexate is said to destabilize the uterine lining, while the misoprostol prompts contractions which expel the unborn child.
“This is an exciting phenomenon because it will provide yet another choice for women.” Claims Dr. Richard Hausknecht of New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
In Canada, Dr. Ellen Wiebe is reported to be using the method at the University of British Columbia Health Centre under approval fro UBC’s ethics committee and with $46,000 in grants from the B.C. Research Council.
“I know what I’m doing is right,” says Dr. Wiebe.
But Mike Izzotti, a co-ordinator fro Pharmacists for Life Inernational in Canada says the positive reports about the methotrexate-misoprostol combination are misleading.
“The media have been very irresponsible. The fact is, methotrexate is very dangerous because it is used in chemotherapy and has many side effects. It’s a last resort. Doctors won’t use it if they don’t have to.”
He says the manufacturers of both drugs exhort doctors specifically not to use the medications on women during pregnancy.
Izzotti notes some of the side effects of methotrexate include kidney damage, chromosomal damage, infertility, birth defects, liver tocicity vomiting convulsions, diarrhea, blood disorders, behaviourial abnormalities, inflammation and fever.
Compounding the dangers of methotrexate is the huge dose necessary fro he abortion technique: 83 milligrams. Izzotti ays the highest dosage of the drug he has seen as pharmacist in a community practice is 25 milligrams.
Misoprostol, meanwhile, is known to cause cramps, spotting, menstrual disorders, nausea, vomiting and headaches. It too requires an unusually large dose for the abortion technique: 800 micrograms. In contrast, Izzotti says a twice daily dosage of only 200 micrograms is recommended for treatment of gastro-intestinal problems.
He adds that problems associated with the taking of the two drugs may not always be immediately apparent. “Often times, you don’t find out until 20 or 30 years later what these drugs have done to your system.”
Izzotti says pharmacists are coming to refer to the methorexate – misoprostol abortion combination as “chemical coathangers”, “Women are being promoted as guinea pigs…For (the media) to say it’s a safe thing is beyond my understanding. It doesn’t make sense at all.”
Meanwhile, the Pharmacists for Life International head office in Ohio is calling the chemical abortion method “highly dangerous” and is soundly denouncing it in public statements.
“Many pertinent facts surrounding he real dangers of use of these highly potent and toxic drugs have not been conveyed to public at large,” says Dr. Bogomir M. Kuhar, PFLI’s executive director. “We are shocked and appalled that nowhere was it revealed in all the hoopla…that methotrexate and misoprostol have numerous and serious side effects, some of which can be lethal.”
PFLI notes that the chief researcher into chemical abortion method, Dr. Richard Hausknecht is known as “a maverick and loose cannon” in abortion circles. Hausknecht has been called to task by another researcher for performing chemical abortions without approval from the U. S. Food and Drug Administration and without proper research safeguards and protocols.
“All women should thoroughly acquaint themselves with all the deadly dangers associated with this new method of chemical abortion and avail themselves of sources which provide full disclosure about these toxic drugs, “urges PFLI in press release.
On the Canadian side, Izzotti agrees, “It’s important that pharmacists became aware of these problems and pass the information on to the public in any way they can.”