It took three years for Health Canada to approve it in July 2015. Now Mifegymiso , the so-called abortion pill, is slowly being released across the country.
The drug arrives in this country a quarter of a century later than in France, where it’s been available since 1988. In the United States, it was approved 17 years ago, and is now being sent to different parts of the country upon request.
Canada is the 61st country to offer the Mifegymiso abortion pill, a two-part drug combination that allows women to terminate unwanted pregnancies in the first 49 days or just under seven weeks gestational age.
The combination treatment involves two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol.
“The mifepristone is to be taken in front of the physician or a health practitioner so it could be a nurse in the clinic as well,” Dustin Costescu, assistant professor and family planning specialist at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at McMaster University, said.
“Rationale behind that is to ensure the medication is delivered to the right patient.”
In British Columbia, the drug would need to be taking at a private counselling room at a pharmacy.
According to Costescu, mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone in a woman. The second drug, misoprostol, induces a miscarriage, and can be taken one to two days later by a woman in their own home.
Up until this point, approximately 96 per cent of women in Canada desiring an abortion have had to go the surgical route. According to medical experts, this requires women to wait a little to get the procedure done.
“When women have abortions at later gestation ages, that is what increases the risk,” Costescu said.
“So by allowing women to access it at an earlier time in their pregnancy, it has the ability to make the medication safer.”
This explains why the introduction of this drug combination to the Canadian public could be hugely beneficial for women living in remote and rural areas, Costescu said.
“A woman that lives in a small town it might take several weeks to coordinate their life or to get travel or to pay to get travel to get to a free-standing abortion facility,” he stated.
He also argues that more access to abortions doesn’t mean abortions will happen more often.
Others are critical of the move to make abortions quicker and easier.
“I would just encourage women to look honestly and with open hearts and open eyes and ears to take care of themselves and really look into the complications with the abortion pill and abortion – period,” Colette Stang, president of the Saskatchewan Pro Life Association, said.
Those reluctant to provide the drug aren’t compelled to, but 497 physicians and pharmacists across the country have already registered to take the six-hour online course required to prescribe and distribute the drug, including 25 from this province.
The drug’s distributor Celopharma told Global News that there is one pharmacy in Saskatoon that has ordered shipment of the drug, but would not disclose which one.
It is also too soon to tell how widely available the drug will be, and it is not covered by the Saskatchewan Drug Plan, at least for now.
For coverage for new drugs, Saskatchewan Health considers the advice from the national Canadian Drug Expert Committee (CDEC) and the drug advisory committee in the province.
The medication is currently scheduled to be reviewed by the CDEC in March 2017 with a final recommendation in the late spring.