Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Medicine: black market developing for misoprostol as primary abortifacient

First, to be clear:

Misoprostol is NOT RU-486; RU-486 is mifepristone, an ENTIRELY different drug that inhibits progesterone receptors. Misoprostol, or Cytotec, is a prostaglandin E1 agonist, commonly used for gastric ulcer prophylaxis, refractory constipation, and cervical ripening. Misoprostol is used as the second drug along with RU-486 in the FDA-approved protocol for pharmacologic abortions, but misoprostol is not the 'abortion pill,' and it certainly isn't the 'morning after pill,' although a pharmacology text written by our right-wing pharmacology professor claims otherwise.

And I say right-wing based on his affinity for Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, the reading list posted on his own website, and the pride which he takes in carrying a concealed weapon.

Plus he is an Ohio State fan.

I refrain from further comment about the professor because you just shouldn't mess with a guy who brags on his site that with his Walther 22, he can "put 10 rounds in a small group in about 5 seconds."

But anyway...

Misoprostol is already well known in poor, immigrant communities in New York and abroad as a cheap and private way to end an unwanted pregnancy.

"There's a black market for it," said Dr. Eric Schaff, professor of Family Medicine at the University of Buffalo. "Women get very desperate with unintended pregnancy. And legal abortions still cost several hundred dollars."

An 800-microgram dose of misoprostol, about four pills, is 60% to 90% effective at ending a pregnancy when taken alone in the first seven weeks, studies show.

Local doctors have been using it legally for years in an FDA-approved regimen that includes the abortion pill mifepristone, popularly known as RU-486.

But unprescribed misoprostol use - which is both dangerous and discouraged by the FDA - is commonplace in Latin American countries where abortion is illegal.
Misoprostol goes for about sixty bucks for sixty pills. That's enough for 15 abortions. So basically, a four dollar abortion that works about 2/3's of the time, and carries a risk of severe consequences for baby and mom.

Abortions cannot be safe, rare, and legal if access to them is so prohibited that women will risk their lives to have an illegal one rather than access channels to obtain the procedure legally. Federally-funded clinics can't even mention abortion, nevermind provide information and proper counseling. Planned Parenthood does a great job, but privacy, cost, and fear can still be a barrier. There's no way in hell Medicaid is going to pay for one. And while I don't particularly think that John Roberts or Harriet Miers is going to change the legality of abortion any time particularly soon, access isn't exactly on the upswing, either.

Coat hangers are not a thing of the past. They're simply now in the form of a hexagonal pill.

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