|November 15th, 2017
PIC is pleased that Health Canada has issued new guidelines that will ease restrictions on how Mifegymiso, also known as the abortion pill, is prescribed and dispensed in Canada — guidelines that should make it easier for women outside of major cities and towns to receive safe, effective abortion services.
The new guidelines include the following:
- Mifegymiso can now be prescribed up to nine weeks into a pregnancy; previously the limit was seven weeks.
- It can be dispensed directly to patients by a pharmacist or a prescribing health professional, and not only by a licensed physician, which should go some way to ensuring increased accessibility.
- Those who prescribe no longer have to complete special training to be able to dispense the drug, nor must they register with the Canadian distributor of the drug, which raised concerns about privacy for many doctors. This is significant because persuading family doctors to prescribe Mifegymiso is critical to expanding abortion access outside of major cities and existing abortion clinics.
While these guidelines are to be commended, it must be noted that coverage of Mifegymiso is not yet universal in Canada. To date only New Brunswick, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia have committed to covering the cost of the drug in full. Other provinces/territories have not yet decided whether to cover the cost of the drug, or have only committed to covering partial costs, or only in certain locations of the province in question. This patchwork approach has contributed to a slow uptake of the drug in those parts of Canada where surgical abortions remain a more affordable option.
Mifegymiso is a two-step drug that is considered the “gold standard” for inducing safe, effective medical abortions, and is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. PIC believes it could be a game-changer for women. But without universal coverage, it will fall far short of its potential to provide women with the option of a safe, non-surgical abortion. Regrettably, access to Mifegymiso — and to abortion services in general — is still not available in some regions of Canada.