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Science/Medicine

French Develop Drug to Induce Abortion

October 19, 1986|Compiled from Times staff and wire service reports

A drug that triggers menstruation, and could be used to induce abortion, may be marketed in France within a year, a World Health Organization expert in Geneva announced.

The drug, administered in pill form, can cause a woman's body to expel a fertilized egg after the embryo has implanted itself in the uterus, according to Paul van Look, a WHO medical officer and human reproduction expert.

Studies indicate that the drug, known as RU-486, can flush out about 90% of the embryo if a woman takes it within a few days of the time she would normally have begun to menstruate, he said.

RU-486, developed by a French firm, differs from commonly used "morning-after" pills, which must be taken shortly after intercourse to be effective, he said. "With this pill, that should not be a problem. The drug should still be active even after implantation. You can interrupt a pregnancy with it."

The drug's main potential drawback seems to be an incomplete abortion if the drug is taken when the pregnancy is too far advanced. Only 60% to 70% of the embryo might be expelled if a woman waits until her period is three or four weeks overdue, Van Look said.

Another use could be as a "once-a-month" pill to prevent pregnancy, he said.

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