British firm to seek approval for first abortion pills in Japan

The Japanese subsidiary of the British pharmaceutical company Linepharma International Ltd. is expected to apply to the Ministry of Health this month for approval of its abortion pills.

Abortion pills have not been approved for use in Japan, although they are used in many countries.

The pills, which should be approved in about a year if things go well, would give women in Japan a less restrictive and safer way to get abortions.

Linepharma will seek approval for mifepristone, which blocks the effects of progesterone, a key hormone needed to sustain pregnancy, and misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract.

According to Linepharma, both drugs were approved in France in 1988 and are now used in more than 70 countries.

After the pills were given to 120 women up to nine weeks pregnant in clinical trials in Japan, 93% of recipients had successful abortions within 24 hours. Nearly 60% of recipients had symptoms such as stomach pain and vomiting, but most were mild. The effectiveness and safety of the pills have therefore been confirmed in trials.

In Japan, there were around 145,000 abortions in 2020. Abortions in Japan are mostly performed through a procedure called dilation and curettage, which removes tissue from inside the uterus using metal equipment .

Abortion in early pregnancy is not covered by health insurance, costing women between ¥100,000 and ¥200,000. Moreover, abortion is accompanied by a high rate of complications such as infectious diseases.

The World Health Organization has stated that medical abortion has been shown to be safe and effective. The WHO added that dilation and curettage is a dangerous and outdated abortion procedure, strongly recommending changes to safer methods, such as the use of pills.

In order for the two Linepharma pills to have the desired effects, it is essential to use them correctly. In the past, a woman suffered health problems after personally importing the pills from the internet.

Before the drugs are put into practice in Japan, there are issues to be resolved, such as how medical institutions should prescribe the pills to ensure they are taken correctly.

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