Posted on | August 21, 2012 by Lisa Correnti |
A group of researchers led by Professor Allyson Pollock from the Centre for Primary Care and Public Health at Barts and the London School of Medicine concluded that there is insufficient evidence that Misoprostol – also know as Cytotec, can effectively treat women for postpartum bleeding. The team of researchers reviewed 172 studies finding that the six that had sufficient data to review “failed to provide sufficient evidence that the drug worked.”
“Current evidence to support the use of misoprostol in home or community settings in low- and middle-income countries for the prevention of postpartum haemorrhage is, at best, inconclusive,” said Professor Pollock.
Although misoprostol’s label use is to treat gastric ulcers it was added to the WHO essential medicine list (EML) in 2011 to be used in developing countries to prevent women from hemorrhaging after childbirth due to its low cost and easy storage capability.
Unfortunately misoprostol was also identified by global abortion groups and is widely promoted as a method for women in less developed countries to obtain a medical abortion where abortion is not accessible or legal. Placing misoprostol on the EML core list allows it to be stockpiled in pharmacies and produced in dosages that can be more effectively used as an abortifacient.
Last fall the Friday Fax identified an international network of organizations and individuals that was formed to promote global access to medical abortions. Within the International Consortium on Medical Abortion (ICMA) is a highly strategic effort to promote worldwide access to chemical abortion pills through education, regional training and advocacy campaigns – with an emphasis on misoprostol for first trimester abortions.
Misoprostol works by inducing labor causing uterine contractions and the thinning of the cervix, so as the website explains, the “products of pregnancy are expelled.” Severe side effects include uterine rupture and death.
In countries where abortion is illegal, ICMA recommends women take misoprostol to start the abortion process and then go to a health clinic for further treatment, since post abortion care (PAC) is available in most countries where abortion is illegal.
In the recent research bulletin of the Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Values and Social Change (AIRVSC), Dr. Donna Harrison reviews clinical data on the complications of medical abortifacients in global developing countries and she writes “Unfortunately, there is a tendency to disregard such problems by enthusiastic abortion advocates, eager to expand abortion use in these countries.”
Professor Pollock’s report also notes the misuse of misoprostol for abortions in countries where it is illegal.
“In countries where abortion is illegal or strongly controlled, there is widespread self-medicated use of misoprostol by women to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Misoprostol is also dangerous if used inappropriately for labour induction.”
“Countries should be concentrating on improving their primary care facilities, rather than thinking there is a pill to prevent every ill,” said Professor Pollock. “Misoprostol is being used inappropriately at present, and the money being spent on purchasing the drug would be better spent elsewhere, for instance, in ensuring there are skilled attendants during delivery and adequate antenatal services that can detect and help to prevent complications.”
Abortion advocates have been successful in using maternal mortality figures to push for access to abortion. Even with data suggesting medical abortifacients may be contributing to increased maternal mortality in developing countries these groups are not about to have misoprostol removed from the EML exposing a very narrow agenda: access to abortion first and health of the woman second.