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RU-486: How it works

October 06, 2000

RU-486: How it works



Use of Mifeprex occurs in two stages. It can only be used within seven weeks - 49 days - of the first day of the last menstrual cycle. In clinical tests, it has been effective 92 to 95 percent of the time.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Once the length of pregnancy has been determined, patients receive a medication guide describing the procedure and what will happen. They must then sign a consent form acknowledging their desire to end pregnancy.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Step two of treatment is to take three Mifeprex tablets in the doctor's office. They block the hormone progesterone, which is needed for pregnancy to continue.

"In practical terms, once she's taken Mifeprex in the doctor's office, she will probably not notice anything," said Dr. Richard Hausknecht, medical director for Danco Laboratories, which will market the drug in America.

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Hausknecht said some women will notice a small amount of spotting. In about two percent of cases, Mifeprex alone will abort the pregnancy.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Forty-eight hours after ingesting Mifeprex, patients must take two tablets of misoprostol, either at their doctor's office or at home.

Misoprostol is a prostaglandin, which causes the uterus to contract and completes the abortion process.

About four hours after taking misoprostol, women will begin to cramp and bleed as their pregnancy is aborted.

Hausknecht said bleeding is proportional to the point in the pregnancy that the fetus is aborted.

If the pregnancy is in its fifth week, he said women can expect bleeding similar to a heavy menstrual period. In its seventh week, it can be much heavier.

"Patients are carefully instructed about how to differentiate from one to the other," Hausknecht said.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Two weeks after taking the medication, patients should meet with their doctor for a checkup to ensure the pregnancy has been terminated.

According to FDA information, five to eight percent of women who take Mifeprex will still need surgery to either end pregnancy or stop excessive bleeding.

Side effects: All women will experience cramping and bleeding to varying degrees.

"I've heard it described as the worst menstrual cramps anybody has ever experienced," said Hagerstown physician David H. Solberg.

According to Hausknecht and FDA, other potential side effects are headache, nausea, dizziness and fatigue.

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