The AP reported today that two more women have died after taking RU-486, the drug that induces abortion. The drug, which is also known as Mifeprex or mifepristone, previously sparked controversy when four California women died soon after taking it.
The FDA has not confirmed the cause of the two most recent deaths, but a spokeswoman told the AP that the symptoms were similar to those seen in the California deaths, which resulted from a severe bacterial infection of the bloodstream. The FDA noted in a press release today that in those four cases, the women vaginally administered the final two pills of the five-pill-course -- an "off-label dosing regimen" that hasn't been approved by the FDA. This frequently recommended practice is raising concerns -- enough so that Planned Parenthood announced today that their health centers would no longer recommend such uses.
In a Planned Parenthood press release today, Vice President for Medical Affairs Vanessa Cullins said, "We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the women who died. We do not know the exact cause of these incidents, but we do know that they have caused enormous pain and anguish."
To offer some perspective on these recent tragedies, though, consider that of the 560,000 nonsurgical abortions in North America since 2000, a total of seven possibly related deaths have been reported, according to Planed Parenthood.
Of course, it's extremely important that women not be exposed to unnecessary risk. If nothing else, these deaths underscore the need for safe abortion services everywhere -- including South Dakota.
As previously mentioned in Broadsheet, the FDA is planning a May 11 scientific workshop that, among other things, will discuss reports of deaths in connection with mifepristone.