Use of unapproved abortion pills bought via the Internet seen rising

An increasing number of women in Japan are putting their health at risk by using unauthorized, imported abortion pills sold via the Internet, medical experts said Saturday.

Abortion pills, which have yet to be officially approved for use here, are gaining popularity as they are relatively cheap and seen by many as more convenient than a surgical abortion, the experts said.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is currently collecting information on abortion pills, the experts said.

Some countries, such as France and the United States, have approved their use, but under close medical supervision.

Because the government has not authorized the use of abortion pills, the health ministry has not received official reports on their side effects from medical experts, a ministry official said.

According to a source at a Tokyo clinic that has treated five women over the past two years for complications from the use of abortion pills, the side effects include bleeding in the abdomen.

Under the approved abortion treatment of early pregnancy by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the abortion pill known as Mifeprex must be taken within 49 days from the beginning of the last menstrual period.

Mifeprex must also be taken with uterine contraction drugs, and its use is prohibited for women with such conditions as extrauterine pregnancy.

The FDA says about one out of 100 women who takes Mifeprex suffers from heavy bleeding that requires surgery.

Kunio Kitamura, head of the Clinic of the Japan Family Planning Association, said it is risky to take abortion pills without instructions from doctors.

Kitamura is urging the government to step up its efforts to track down health problems involving the use of unauthorized abortion pills, as an increasing number of women who do not want to see doctors and do not want family members to find out about their pregnancies will take such pills.

He also said the government should draw up regulations to prevent people in Japan from buying unauthorized drugs over the Internet.