Friday, April 1, 2016

New Guidelines for the Use of the Morning-After Pill

The FDA has published new guidelines for the use of the "morning-after" pill mifepristone (MifeprexR), used to affect a medication abortion. The new guidelines will permit the pill to be used up to 10 weeks after pregnancy, three weeks longer than previously permitted. The new guidelines will also require only two visits to a physician for a full course of treatment, making the drug easier to obtain and use. Many doctors had already been using mifepristone according to the new guidelines (meaning that they were using it "off-label" at the time), because it has been known for years that the pill is safe and effective up to 10 weeks after pregnancy.

The new FDA guidelines are a setback for the anti-abortion movement. In an effort to make access to mifepristone as difficult as possible, anti-abortion advocates had convinced the legislators of six states (Arizona, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Texas) to pass laws prohibiting off-label use of the drug. The unspoken goal of these laws was to make it harder to obtain and use mifepristone by forcing patients to see a physician three or more times instead of just twice and limiting the drug's use to just seven weeks after pregnancy. The tactic worked; one study found that medication abortions fell by more than 80% in Ohio after introduction of the restrictive law in that state, according to CBS News.

Under the new guidelines, the way that most physicians currently prescribe mifepristone will no longer be "off-label".  As a result, medication abortions should again become more common in those six states that had attempted to restrict them.

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