29 December 2005

That which does not make us stronger can kill us

Eurekalert reports that a study published in The Annals of Pharmacotherapy shows that the “abortion drug” (abortifacient) RU486 (Mifepristone/Mifeprex) can cause hæmorrhaging and even death.

Of the six hundred odd AERs (Adverse Event Reports) investigated,

The most frequent AERs were hemorrhage (n = 237) and infection (66). Hemorrhages included 1 fatal, 42 life threatening, and 168 serious cases; 68 required transfusions. Infections included 7 cases of septic shock (3 fatal, 4 life threatening) and 43 cases requiring parenteral antibiotics. Surgical interventions were required in 513 cases (235 emergent, 278 nonemergent). Emergent cases included 17 ectopic pregnancies (11 ruptured). Second trimester viability was documented in 22 cases (9 lost to follow-up, 13 documented fetal outcome). Of the 13 documented cases, 9 were terminated without comment on fetal morphology, 1 was enrolled in fetal registry, and 3 fetuses were diagnosed with serious malformations, suggesting a malformation rate of 23%.

In lay terms, you’re likely to bleed, require surgery or becoming infected, and there’s a chance that it won’t abort the baby anyway. Of the babies hit with the drug but not aborted, roughly a quarter are deformed by the drug.

At least 5 women have been unequivocally killed by the side-effects, and one has to wonder how many times more dead women didn’t report using the drug, or their doctors didn’t make the connection. The study authors comment:

AERs relied upon by the FDA to monitor mifepristone’s postmarketing safety are grossly deficient due to extremely poor quality.

Last year, the packaging was altered in Canada and the US to include a warning (like a cigarette packet) that this stuff can kill you or make you very ill. Does anyone know if Australian packaging was similarly modified? Can anyone see a pharma corp rushing to do so without regulatory intervention?


M said...

in 1997 over 1 million women had used it.
If used correctly RU486 can achieve a 95% success rate. I can't seem to find statics on usage in 2005 but compare the "600 odd" with the 1 million way back in 1997 + up to today... that's not a very scary figure.
Surgical abortion is ALSO a massively dangerous method with some very serious and life threatening consequences, not to mention incredibly invasive and bruising to the woman's mental state.
Medical abortion may only used up till the 7th week where as surgical can be used up till the 18th week.
So if used in a 1st world country such as Australia the cases of malformed foetus _should_ be Nil.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this should be used in a "take two and call me in the morning" type situation, but it should be considered as a very real option in many very sad situations.

As usual wikipedia has a good amount of information on it's page:

Stewart Smith said...

Everything is relative. What are the equivilent numbers for surgical abortion?

How does this compare to other drugs - even common ones such as parcetemol?

There are warning labels about septic shock on tampons (less likely now than in the past, but still).

So saying that RU486 may cause problems is true, it's not wise to dismiss it just because there could be problems. There are a non-insignificant number of people on the planet that would drop dead after eating a handful of peanuts - but we don't ban the use of peanuts for that reason.

Leon Brooks said...

m: the 600 represent formal reports from a small subset of the world population, and those are from a first-world country. The article is unaccustomedly blunt about the reaearchers’ opinion of the completeness of that dataset.

95% sounds like a nice number, but it means one baby in 20 survives (19 are killed, we aren’t told how cleanly), and from these added stats one baby in 80 survives and is obviously deformed.

stewart: the actual figure for paracetamol is that a dangerous dose is roughly double the recmmended dose.

One related consideration is that alcohol is implicated in at least half of our road deaths, and “road maimings” amount to roughly eight times that. Peanuts are useful food, and the side-effects hit a very small subset of the population; drunkenness and the consequent potential for damage and death is the universal result of consuming enough alcohol.

Alcohol kills far more people through allergic-type reactions than peanuts. You can see borderline cases of this in people who become “two-pot screamers” on particular kinds of alcohol (e.g. malt whiskey but not brandy): the intolerance amps up the intoxication enormously.

I’d expect to see alcohol banned long before peanuts, and look at what happened last time the Yanks tried to do that.

all-y’all: I’m much more in favour of either being more responsible in the first place, or of accepting that you’ve started another human being (with all of the responsibilities therein entailed) given that you’re facing a fait accompli.

Regarding your child as just a blob of protoplasm has some nasty consequences if followed through. What, for instance, makes the difference between a blob and a person? Who draws the line if a person is not a person from Day One? In Real Life™, there are already idiots capaigning for “post natal abortion”.