Originally developed in the 1980s, the drug mifepristone is now one of the most commonly-used methods for physicians to induce abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, medication-induced abortions accounted for roughly a quarter of all the abortions performed in the United States in 2011. Mifepristone works by blocking progesterone receptors, causing a miscarriage. It’s typically prescribed in conjunction with another drug, misoprostol.
Now, the Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will change the labeling on mifepristone to reflect current scientific evidence about the drug.
The original labeling was based on clinic evidence from the 1990s. Under the new guidelines, the pill can now be taken up to 10 weeks of pregnancy rather than seven. The recommendations also decrease the necessary number of visits to a physician from three to two. Finally, the F.D.A reduced their recommended dosage to 200 milligrams from 600 milligrams.
In most states, physicians have already been following the regimen recommended by the new guidelines for years. In states such as Texas and Oklahoma, however, where the use mifepristone has been restricted, this update means that women will have improved access to the drug.
Abortion rights groups have applauded the change for finally bringing mifepristone’s labeling up to date with contemporary medical science. They’ve also roundly condemned the restrictive legislation which made the change necessary in the first place.
“This label change underscores just how medically unnecessary and politically motivated restrictions on medication abortion in states like Texas and Oklahoma truly are – and demonstrates the lengths politicians will go to single out reproductive healthcare to restrict women’s rights,” said Nancy Northrop, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights in a prepared statement.
To learn more about mifepristone, you can visit the F.D.A. question and answer page here.