What is mifepristone? Abortion drugs in the spotlight after Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision

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After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and family planning vs. Casey, Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that states cannot ban mifepristone for the treatment of abortion.

“And we stand ready to work with other parts of the federal government that are seeking to use their legal authority to protect and maintain access to reproductive care,” he wrote.

“In particular, the FDA approved the use of the drug Mifepristone. States cannot ban mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert opinion on its safety and efficacy,” Garland said.

But, what is mifepristone?

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According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), mifepristone (mifeprex) is used with another medication called misoprostol to terminate pregnancies less than 70 days old.

Containers of medicine used to terminate early pregnancy are on a table at a family planning clinic in October.  September 29, 2021 in Fairview Heights, Illinois.

Containers of medicine used to terminate early pregnancy are on a table at a family planning clinic in October. September 29, 2021 in Fairview Heights, Illinois.
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The drug blocks progesterone, a hormone needed to continue pregnancy.

Mifeprex was first approved in 2000, and in 2016 the FDA approved an additional application based on data and information provided by the drug’s manufacturer.

After reviewing this statement, the agency said it determined that mifeprex is “safe and effective when used to terminate pregnancies in accordance with the revised labeling.”

Three years later, the FDA approved mifepristone 200 milligram tablets, a generic version of mifeprex.

Tablets are taken orally in about two days, and anyone taking them should see a doctor in one to two weeks.

In this photo illustration, a woman looks at a mifepristone abortion pill (RU-486) ​​for an unplanned pregnancy displayed on a smartphone on May 8, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia.

In this photo illustration, a woman looks at a mifepristone abortion pill (RU-486) ​​for an unplanned pregnancy displayed on a smartphone on May 8, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia.
(Photo by OLIVIER DULIERI/AFP via Getty Images)

People who should not take this medicine include those who have had an ectopic pregnancy, have adrenal problems, are currently on long-term corticosteroid therapy, have bleeding problems or are taking anticoagulants, intermittent progyria, and who have an IUD. (intrauterine device) in place.

Possible side effects of using mifeprex include cramping and vaginal bleeding, nausea, weakness, fever, chills, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, and dizziness during the first or two days after taking the two drugs.

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As of June last year, there have been 26 reported female deaths associated with mifepristone since it was approved, including two fatal ectopic pregnancies and several severe systemic infections.

“Adverse events cannot be confidently attributed to mifepristone due to concomitant use of other drugs, other medical or surgical treatments, comorbidities, and gaps in patient health and clinical management information,” the FDA said in a statement. noting that no new safety signals were identified in the review of adverse events.

FILE - Boxes of mifepristone are on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

FILE – Boxes of mifepristone are on a shelf at the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
(AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, file)

Mifepristone for abortion has also been approved in France, the UK, Sweden and about 60 other countries.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization on abortion rights, medical abortion is currently 54% abortion in the USA.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says people should not buy mifeprex or generics online because they “bypass important security measures designed to protect.” [their] health”, and drugs purchased from foreign online sources are not FDA-approved drug versions.

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Mifeprex must be prescribed, administered and dispensed by or under the supervision of a qualified health care provider.

In December, the FDA canceled restrictions on access to abortion pills – providing patients with the opportunity to receive them by mail.

Tablets are not sold without a prescription; however, in some areas mifepristone and misoprostol require only a telemedicine visit. Access to telemedicine abortion is governed by state law.