Abortion drugs trial succeeds

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The Independent Online
CELIA HALL

Medical Editor

A new method of medical abortion using two drugs which are already licensed, has been tried successfully in the United States where opposition is preventing use of the "abortion pill" RU486.

The method involves small doses of a drug used for cancer, methotrexate, which stops cells dividing, and a prostaglandin, misoprostol, a hormone which stimulates contractions.

Of 178 women, the method was successful in 88 per cent who had abortions within 24 hours of taking the second drug and in 6 per cent after two doses of the prostaglandin.

The anti-abortion lobby in the US has been successful in delaying the licencing of RU486 (mifepristone). In Boston last December, two women were shot dead and six wounded when a gunman attacked an abortion clinic which was testing the drug. However, it is widely used in France and for about10,000 legal arbortions in the United Kingdom.

Writing in the the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr Richard Hausknecht, of the department of obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive science, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, says the new drug combination is effective, safe and easily implemented. He says it permits greater privacy and personal control for the woman.

Ruth Grigg, spokeswoman for the Family Planning Association, said the new method offered a potentially interesting alternative. "The drug stops the embryo in its tracks. The second drug clears out the womb. If it is a safe and effective method then women should have the opportunity to choose it."

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