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Study Sheds Light on Role of Abortion Drug in Causing Rare, Fatal Infections When Used Off-Label

Posted Jun 29 2008 3:05pm

The off-label use of a drug given with RU-486 to terminate a pregnancy may be responsible for a handful of rare, fatal infections seen in women taking the drugs since 2000, a study by University of Michigan scientists suggests.

The drug misoprostol is FDA-approved to be taken by mouth along with RU-486 to end a pregnancy. But many women have received the drug vaginally as part of the two-drug combination, a method of delivery not evaluated by the FDA.

In animal and cell culture studies, the U-M researchers found that misoprostol, when given directly in the reproductive tract, suppresses key immune responses and can allow a normally non-threatening bacterium, Clostridium sordellii, to gain the upper hand and cause deadly infection. When absorbed through the stomach, however, the drug did not compromise immune defenses or cause illness.

The study, which appears online ahead of print in the Journal of Immunology, also has implications for understanding dangerous infections that occur during pregnancy.

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