California Abortion Drug Investigation Underway After Four Deaths

LOS ANGELES, August 15, 2005 ( – Health officials have launched an investigation into the safety of the RU-486 chemical abortion after reports that four California women died after combined use of the drug with misoprostol, a drug used to follow-up after the RU-486/ Mifeprex feticide kills the unborn child.

The combined resources of the US Food and Drug Administration, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Health Services and the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services are seeking to determine if there is a causal connection between use of the drug and the four California deaths. The investigation was initiated after a Sherman Oaks attorney, Oriane Shevin, became the fourth woman whose death was linked to use of the drug in June. The other three women included Chanelle Bryant, 22, of Pasadena, Holly Patterson, 18, of Livermore, and a fourth woman whose identity was not made public.

Two of the women, Bryant and Patterson, succumbed to a rare bacterial infection known as Clostridium sordellii. The health authorities believe the infection may be linked in some way with the vaginal route for administration of the misoprostol, because deaths are less common when this second drug, used to induce labor, is taken orally.

How the infection is linked to use of the drug is “Something we don’t have an explanation for right now,” said CDC epidemiologist Dr. L. Clifford McDonald.

The FDA approved RU-486 in 2000. In 2003, US Congress introduced “Holly’s Law.” Technically known as the “RU-486 Suspension and Review Act of 2003,” the law seeks to ban use of the drug, arguing that it is unsafe. Holly’s father, Monty Patterson, argues that symptoms of the deadly infection that killed his daughter and symptoms due to normal effects of the drug, such as abdominal cramping and heavy bleeding, are indistinguishable, thus it is not possible for the drug to be administered safely. In addition, women who died from Clostridium sordellii did not have fevers that are normally associated with infections.

“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,” Patterson said, as reported by the LA Times. “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.”

“We should be just as concerned about women’s safety as we are about their rights,” emphasized Concerned Women for America’s senior policy director, Wendy Wright. “I’ve been stunned by the comments … that some women have to pay the price of death so that women can have abortions.”

The Los Angeles Times reported the following timeline of deaths related to the RU-486 chemical abortion:

“2001 – Brenda Vise, 38, of Chattanooga, Tenn., dies of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy after taking the drug combination. A Canadian woman dies of infection after that country’s drug trials.”

“2003 – Holly Patterson, 18, of Livermore, Calif., dies of a blood infection after a medical abortion. A bill to establish Holly’s Law, to take Mifeprex off the market and review its safety, is introduced in Congress.”

“2004 – Chanelle Bryant, 22, of Pasadena, dies of infection after a medical abortion.”

“2005 – Oriane Shevin, 34, Sherman Oaks, dies of infection after a medical abortion. The FDA sends out a public health advisory warning of the danger of infection when using Mifeprex and misoprostol. Calls resume for the passage of Holly’s Law.”

See related coverage:
  Public Documents Reveal Numerous RU-486 Complications
  Abortion Drug RU-486 Company Admits to Death of Five Women


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