Health Canada approved the abortion drug known as RU-486 yesterday for use in Canada, a drug that is already available in 60 countries worldwide as a safe means to terminate pregnancy.
Women seeking the drug will need a prescription from a doctor to purchase the abortion solution made by Linepharma International Limited.
RU-486 will be sold under the brand name Mifegymiso. It has been available for use in the United States since 2000, and in France since 1988.
The drug, which will help to improve access to abortion care for women in rural communities that currently lack abortion providers, can be used safely as late as 70 days into a pregnancy, although officials think Health Canada may have set an earlier limit on its use.
Mifegymiso is a two-part drug. It consists of mifepristone, which blocks the production of progesterone, a hormone needed to sustain pregnancy and misoprostol, a hormone that tells the uterus to contract and expel the placenta and fetus.
Officials say that, initially, access to the drug will likely be restricted to availability through health-care professionals who already provide abortion services. In time, it is believed that more doctors will come on board as prescribers, making the drug more widely available.
The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada reports that while two-thirds of all abortions are done in a hospital and covered by Medicare, the availability of hospital abortions is disappearing from smaller communities across the country with less than one in five hospitals in Canada providing the controversial service.