The Los Angeles Times reports:
Health officials are investigating whether there are any links in the cases of four California women — at least two in Los Angeles County — who have died since 2003 of massive infection after taking the so-called abortion pill, RU-486, and a follow-up drug.
The state and federal probe follows an announcement last month by the Food and Drug Administration, after the June death of a Sherman Oaks woman, warning doctors and patients of the potential for serious bacterial infection under certain circumstances.
At the heart of the inquiry in California are why and how the deadly infections developed and whether more women might have been harmed.
“That’s something we don’t have an explanation for right now,” said Dr. L. Clifford McDonald, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is investigating the deaths along with the Food and Drug Administration, the California Department of Health Services and the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.
The FDA is also working with the makers of the two drugs to see if they were contaminated with an unusual bacterium found in the bloodstream of two of the women who died. Complicating matters, neither woman showed all of the usual symptoms of an infection.
The medical mystery in California is fueling the already charged debate over the risks, rights and morality of abortion.
RU-486, prescribed under the brand name Mifeprex, was approved by the FDA in 2000 over the strong objections of many abortion opponents. In recent weeks, opponents of the RU-486 regimen have renewed their call for the passage of Holly’s Law, which would take the drug off the market in the U.S., arguing that there is no way it can be administered without risk.
The proposed legislation was named after 18-year-old Holly Patterson of Livermore, Calif., the first U.S. woman to die of infection after a nonsurgical abortion in 2003. The procedure is often called a medical abortion…
I highlighted Holly’s case in 2003:
Planned Parenthood’s outspoken activists remain stone-cold silent about Holly Patterson. She’s the teenager who died of tragic complications from taking the abortion drug cocktail RU-486, which she obtained from a northern California Planned Parenthood clinic in September. Holly and her unborn child suffered a painful, bloody and prolonged death.
Patterson was seven weeks pregnant when she received the chemical abortion regimen. After seven days and two desperate trips to a hospital emergency room seeking help for intense cramping and bleeding, she succumbed to “septic shock, due to endomyometritis (inflammation) due to therapeutic, drug-induced abortion,” according to an Alameda County coroner’s report. The silence of the abortion lobby speaks volumes:
Ho-hum. Just one (sic) more innocent casualty in pursuit of the almighty “right to choose.” Nothing to see here. Move along…
Parents are speaking out:
Lynn Bryant, whose otherwise healthy daughter Chanelle died in 2004, said that it is imperative for doctors, nurses and emergency room staff to know about the potential for serious side effects and death.
“I’d like people to know that it could be life-threatening, and also for the medical people to be aware of the dangers of the drug when [women] come in for treatment,” Bryant said.
Monty Patterson, Holly Patterson’s father, believes that there is no way to administer Mifeprex and misoprostol safely, in part because it is impossible to tell the difference between the desired effects of the drugs and the signs of a serious infection. Women who take the drugs, he said, are told that they should expect abdominal pain and heavier bleeding than during a normal menstrual period, results that are similar to the drugs’ danger signs.
In addition, the women who had Clostridium sordellii did not run a fever, a normal side effect of an infection, according to the FDA.
“That’s a real issue where a woman, a young woman, has to figure out if she’s beyond these so-called normal side effects … to serious adverse events,” said Patterson, who has spent the last 22 months advocating against Mifeprex. “You have to figure it out, be able to call for help…. I feel the drug is not safe. There are problems. I feel a lot of these problems have not been reported.”
Reporting deaths and side effects of the drug is voluntary for doctors, although it is a requirement for drug makers. Opponents of the drug believe that doctors are loath to report bad outcomes in abortion cases, making the number of problems far greater than the public knows. The FDA estimates that, in general, only about 10% of problems with drugs are reported…
The silence of women’s health advocates is even more damning.
Jeff H. at Think Sink has more.