Japan Health Ministry Panel OKs Abortion Pill

Courtesy of Linepharma
The abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — An advisory panel to Japan’s health ministry on Friday agreed to approve an abortion pill, the first drug in the country for the medical termination of pregnancies.

While abortion pills are available in at least 65 countries and regions, surgical abortion is the only method currently available in Japan to terminate pregnancy.

An experts’ panel of the Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council agreed to approve the pill. But another panel of the council will consider whether to approve it after a public comment period in February.

The ministry said careful deliberations are necessary for the pill as it attracts much attention.

Even if the pill is approved, it can be administered for the time being only at hospitals where appropriate steps can be taken during emergencies after being checked by designated doctors under the maternal protection law.

A Japanese arm of British pharmaceutical firm Linepharma International Ltd. in December 2021 applied to the ministry for approval for the oral drug, Mefeego, which combines mifepristone, which blocks the effect of progesterone, a hormone key in continuing a pregnancy, and misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract.

The drug is for women who are within the first nine weeks of pregnancy. Under clinical trials in Japan, successful abortions within 24 hours of taking the pill were confirmed in 93.3 pct of women. There were no issues with the pill’s safety.

Some 140,000 abortions took place in Japan in fiscal 2020, which ended in March 2021. The mainstream method of abortion currently used in Japan is the curettage procedure, which involves scraping and removing tissue from a person’s uterus with a metal tool.

This procedure has a high risk of leading to complications. The World Health Organization has criticized the method as obsolete and unsafe.