Japan’s 1st Oral Abortion Pills Gradually Coming into Use

Courtesy of Linepharma
The abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol

TOKYO June 20 (Jiji Press) — The first oral abortion pills in Japan are gradually coming into use at medical institutions after winning government approval in April.

Mefeego Pack, developed by British drugmaker Linepharma International Ltd., can be prescribed within the first nine weeks of pregnancy. To end pregnancy, two types of pills need to be taken orally within 36 to 48 hours.

Women who took the pills welcomed the new option, saying they cause less of a physical and mental burden than the traditional abortion procedure.

Doctors, for their part, want improvements in the rules about how to administer the pills, which require both patients and doctors to be engaged for a long time.

At Fides Ladies Clinic Tamachi in Tokyo, 11 women in their 20s to 40s had taken the pills and ended their pregnancies as of June 8, the clinic’s leader, Miho Uchida, said.

No serious side effects were observed, Uchida said.

The traditional surgical abortion normally takes about 10 to 15 minutes. It does not require hospitalization if pregnancy has not reached 12 weeks.

By contrast, the oral pills take about three days to complete the abortion process after the first pill is taken. Because a health ministry notification says those using the medicine must wait at medical institutions after taking the second pill, only institutions with hospital beds can prescribe the pills.

“Some patients choose the oral abortion medicine because it involves a smaller mental and physical burden,” Uchida said.

But because abortion using the pills takes time, the number of patients the clinic can accept is limited, she said.

Calling for improvements, Uchida cited overseas examples in which those using the medicine can take the second pill at home and stay there.

Yutaka Osuga, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Medicine, said the share of women who take the pills among those having abortions is unlikely to rise sharply, given a lack of support for women in the areas of the working environment and health.

It is likely to take about 10 years for the share to exceed 50 pct in Japan as it took 10 to 20 years in Europe and the United States, he said.