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Drug Combination May Offer New Abortion Option Doctor Says Two Currently Available Drugs Can Induce Abortion Safely

Thu., Aug. 31, 1995

American women seeking an abortion but wary of surgical procedures or violence-prone clinics soon may have another option, according to a new study showing that a two-drug combination was 96 percent effective in inducing abortion in the first nine weeks of pregnancy.

The study, conducted by a New York City doctor of obstetrics/gynecology and self-described abortion crusader, promises to affect not only the way doctors terminate pregnancies but also America’s ceaseless, soul-wrenching, sometimes murderous debate over the right to legal abortion.

Unlike the so-called French abortion pill, RU-486, which is limited in the United States to just a handful of medical researchers, these two drugs are widely available here, having previously won U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for other uses.

They are methotrexate, an anti-cancer drug that is toxic to fast-multiplying tissue, including fetal tissue, and misoprostol, an anti-ulcer drug that, incidentally, causes uterine contractions, which can expel an embryo.

Although the FDA has not approved the drugs for abortion, the agency doesn’t stop private physicians from prescribing drugs for reasonable “off-label” purposes, said FDA Deputy Commissioner Mary Pendergast.

The study appears in today’s New England Journal of Medicine and was conducted by Dr. Richard U. Hausknecht. Saying that “social and political factors have blocked medical approaches to pregnancy termination in the United States,” Hausknecht concluded that this two-drug approach “makes it possible to integrate a woman’s personal choice about her pregnancy into the everyday practice of medicine.”


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