The Department of Health (DOH) will intensify auditing of the use of RU486 early abortion pills in the face of allegations of rampant abuse of the controversial drug, an official in charge of controlled drugs said yesterday.
According to official tallies, local women took an average of 7,711 RU486 pills, also known as Mifepristone, per month in 2002, which could be translated into 30,847 RU486-induced abortion cases for the whole year. The number of the average monthly RU486 use increased to 10,753 tablets in 2003 for an estimated 43,011 abortion cases during the year.
"The figures marked a 39 percent year-on-year growth in terms of the consumption of RU486 tablets," said Lee Jih-heng (李志燴), director of the National Bureau of Controlled Drugs.
Worse still, Lee said, some medical institutions or clinics have allegedly used smuggled RU486 pills from China or other countries to save costs and dodge the department's supervision.
Noting that only those women less than seven weeks pregnant and confirmed to be free of ectopic pregnancy can use RU486, Lee said abuse of smuggled or unsanctioned RU486 could be very dangerous.
With a view to better protecting local women's health, Lee said the health department will tighten monitoring of the use of RU486, step up safe sex publicity and revise relevant abortion regulations to cope with the changing social situation.
* Between 2002 and 2003 the rate of use of the early abortion pills increased by 35 percent.
* In 2003 more than 10,000 pills a month were taken.
* This might work out to more than 43,000 early abortions.
* Department of Health experts want women to be more aware that the drug must be used under doctors' supervision, after a check for ectopic pregnancy has been performed