GW Medical Center officials said they are considering whether to offer the newly approved FDA drug RU-486.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the French abortion drug Mifepristone for U.S. use two weeks ago, after almost a decade of debate.
But at GW, There hasn’t been a decision about whether or not it will be used, said Mary Kendell, a nurse practitioner in the obstetrics and gynecology department of the hospital.
Mifepristone is an antiprogestin, a substance that blocks progesterone, a hormone necessary to sustain a pregnancy, and can be used effectively in terminating pregnancy up to 49 days after the beginning of a woman’s last menstrual period, according to an FDA press release.
Mifepristone is combined with the drug Misoprostol, which causes uterine contractions that expel the embryo. The drug was more than 92 percent effective in the FDA trials, according to the press release.
If the Medical Center decides to carry RU-486, the drug could be made available through the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the Medical Center, officials said, but any physician can prescribe the drug under the current language of the FDA approval.
The approval of the drug has come under scrutiny from opponents who said the legalization of the medication might increase the number of women who obtain abortions. In some states, pro-life advocates are challenging the FDA approval under state-specific law. No such effort is underway in D.C.
GW students who require gynecological care – aside from emergency contraception like the day after pill – are referred to the GW Medical Center or other clinics by Student Health, said Dr. Isabel Goldenberg, director of Student Health.
For routine gynecological care, and that includes contraception, the patient would go upstairs to the Medical Center for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Goldenberg said. We don’t do any type of routine care. We try to focus our services on medical problems – things you need taken care of so you can go back to class.
Virginia Martin, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, said all six of the organization’s area clinics would carry the drug as soon as it is available.
Martin said a pricing scale for the drug has not been developed, but will likely follow other Planned Parenthood policy that allows women to pay an amount they can afford for services.
Many students go to Planned Parenthood to ensure anonymity and save money, Martin said. Some students choose to pay for Planned Parenthood services out of their own pocket because they do not want their parents to know about their sexual activity, Martin said.
Martin said the new pill does not diminish the importance of responsible planning.
Having another safe, early option for abortion does not give a green light for people to change their responsible behavior, Martin said. Who out there would want to use abortion as their method of family planning?
The Medical Center can provide abortions for women, but the procedure is rarely performed because of time constraints and costs, Kendell said. Women are usually referred to area clinics, she said.
Kendell said the abortions with RU-486 probably would not be less expensive than surgical abortions, but is another option for women.
There are some women who say they can’t stand the noise of the suction machine, she said.
The pill does carry side effects, including intense cramping and heavy bleeding, nausea, headaches and diarrhea, FDA officials caution. These symptoms are similar to surgical abortion.
Mifepristone, which will be sold as Mifeprex, could be available in the U.S. as early as the end of the month.
Medical Center officials said they are not sure when they will make a decision to prescribe the drug.