The Japanese subsidiary of British pharmaceutical company Linepharma International Ltd. is expected to apply to the health ministry this month for approval of its abortion pills.
The use of abortion pills has not been approved in Japan, although they are used in many countries.
The pills, which are expected to be approved in about a year if things go well, would give women in Japan a less burdensome and safer way to have an abortion.
Linepharma will seek approval for mifepristone, which blocks the effects of progesterone, a key hormone needed for continuing a pregnancy, and misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract.
According to Linepharma, the two drugs were approved in France in 1988 and is now used in over 70 countries.
After the pills were administered to 120 women up to nine weeks into pregnancy in clinical trials in Japan, 93% of the recipients had successful abortions in 24 hours. Almost 60% of the recipients had symptoms such as stomachache and vomiting, but most were mild. The effectiveness and safety of the pills were, therefore, confirmed in the trials.
In Japan, there were about 145,000 abortions in 2020. Abortions in Japan are mainly performed by a procedure called dilation and curettage, which removes tissue from inside the uterus using metal equipment.
Abortion in the early stages of pregnancy is not covered by health insurance, costing women ¥100,000 to ¥200,000. In addition, abortion comes with a high rate of complications such as infectious diseases.
The World Health Organization said that abortion by drugs has been confirmed to be safe and effective. The WHO added that dilatation and curettage is an unsafe, outdated abortion procedure, strongly recommending changes to safer methods, such as the use of pills.
In order for Linepharma’s two pills to have intended effects, it is essential to use them correctly. In the past, a woman suffered health damage after personally importing the pills over the internet.
Before the drugs are put into practical use in Japan, there are issues to be resolved, such as how medical institutions should prescribe the pills to ensure that they are taken properly.
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