Mifegymiso, the abortion pill, is now available in Canada

Here's what you need to know.

One year after Health Canada first approved Mifegymiso, the drug is finally available , but only through physicians certified to prescribe it.


What it is

Included among the World Health Organization’s list of “essential medicines,” the combination of mifepristone (also known as RU-486) and misoprostol is used in medical abortions, ending pregnancy in its first trimester. Previously unavailable here, the drug received approval from Health Canada last July. Its brand name will be Mifegymiso.

How it works

Mifepristone blocks the production of progesterone, a hormone that prepares the uterine lining for pregnancy. A day or two later, a woman then takes the drug misoprostol, which causes contractions. Together, the drugs essentially induce a miscarriage at home.

Where it’s used

Mifepristone first became available in France and China in 1988, in the United Kingdom in 1991 and in most European countries by 1999. In 2000, it was approved in the United States, and in Australia in 2012. The drug is now used in roughly 60 percent of abortions in some European countries and about 20 percent in the U.S.

The risks

A 2012 review of more than 45,000 abortions using mifepristone found that fewer than five percent of women required surgery to complete the abortion and 0.4 percent experienced serious complications. The review, published in the medical journal Contraception, concluded that “[e]arly medical abortion with mifepristone 200 mg followed by misoprostol is highly effective and safe.”

The delay

In October 2011, the European drug company Linepharma International submitted an application to Health Canada for approval of its 200-mg mifepristone tablet. The company resubmitted an application the following year, but Health Canada held off making its decision until now.

Medical abortion in Canada today

Until recently fewer than four percent of abortions in Canada are performed medically. Currently, women take methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug administered orally or by injection, then follow with misoprostol after five to seven days. In addition to the longer wait time, the drug is less predictable than mifepristone, sometimes requiring several weeks to complete, additional appointments with practitioners and surgery.

by Danielle Groen, published 20 Apr 2016