A French company today suspended distribution of a controversial abortion pill. Some officials said the firm feared a boycott of its products, especially in the United States.
The pharmaceutical company, Roussel Uclaf, said the decision to stop worldwide distribution of the highly effective pill, RU 486, came in response to the “outcry of public opinion at home and abroad” against the drug.
It also blamed “the controversy that developed by the possible utilization of the antihormone meifepristone (RU 486) in abortions.”
The pill is an antihormone that works against the female hormone progesterone, which is vital to a normal pregnancy, by blocking the implantation of the fertilized egg on the uterine wall. RU 486 is about 80% effective when used alone. When used with a second product, sulprostone, or prostaglandin E, it is more than 95% effective.
RU 486 is not a do-it-yourself, morning-after pill that can be purchased at the supermarket and administered at home. The procedure must be carried out under the supervision of medical specialists in a hospital.
On Sept. 23 French Health Minister Claude Evin authorized prescription of the drug subject to the strict conditions. It was delivered on an experimental basis to about 100 hospitals where abortions are performed.
The government decision gave Roussel Uclaf, which invested a substantial amount of money in developing the drug, the green light to put the drug on the market. The product already had been approved by the Chinese government.
Officials at Roussel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the company had received “threats of boycott” against all its products “especially from abroad and especially from the United States.”
Abortion has been legal in France since 1975.