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Steve Weatherbe

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Canadian pharmacists protest exclusion from RU-486 sales

Steve Weatherbe

CHARLOTTETOWN, Prince Edward Island, July 14, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – With lucrative sales of RU-486 looming in the fall, Canada’s druggists are complaining about being cut out by Health Canada regulations permitting only doctors to dispense the drug.

But because of the health risks for the mother associated with RU-486, Campaign Life Coalition said it needs to be restricted to doctors. “It dispels the myth that an abortion is quite easy, like removing a gall bladder,” the CLC’s Johanne Brownrigg told LifeSiteNews.

The P.E.I. College of Pharmacists is the latest organization to challenge the restrictions on Mifegymiso, as RU-486 is called in Canada. It comes in the form of what Health Canada calls a “composite pack”— one mifepristone pill to kill the unborn child and four misoprostol pills to expel the body.

That’s a lot of detail for a doctor to handle, worries Michelle Wyland, registrar for the PEI College of Pharmacists. She told the CBC, “The prescribing doctor is going to have to have access to that medication. They're going to have to have systems in place to be able to order and maintain inventory of that particular medication.”

Wyland also expressed concern that doctors might not be able to monitor the expiration date on drugs or the billing of drugs to patients.

Her comments echo a statement from the Canadian Pharmacists Association, made a year ago when Health Canada approved Mifegymiso. The CPA called the restriction “disappointing,” arguing that “Canadian pharmacists are the medication experts on the health care team,” and that because pharmacies are more plentiful than doctors, access to abortion would be improved by allowing pharmacists to dispense the drug.

“Pharmacists routinely provide care in the area of reproductive health, notably in responding to the needs of women requiring emergency contraception,” the CPA argued.

The BC College of Pharmacists went further last July, urging Health Canada to include druggists in the Mifegymiso trade, arguing that the doctors-only restriction “does not promote the provision of safe, effective medical abortion services to women, particularly those living in rural and remote communities.”

The regimen prescribed by Health Canada requires the mother to take the first pill in the doctor’s presence and the other four at home. Within two weeks, she must see the doctor again to check for the possible side effects enumerated by the federal agency, including “infection and sepsis, the risk of heavy bleeding and the embryotoxicity of Mifegymiso for an ongoing pregnancy (treatment failure) or any immediate subsequent pregnancy.”

Also, the drug can be used only during the first 49 days of pregnancy, not, as the World Health Organization recommends, the first 63 days.

The CLC’s Brownrigg questioned the pharmacists’ low opinion of doctors’ ability to refrigerate and monitor drugs. In a recent blog, she said anyone who has been given an allergy shot by a doctor will “know doctors also have to stock, liaise with distributors, process sales, develop pharmacological expertise and find time to administer the dose AND keep the patient in the waiting room for 30 minutes after they’ve had their needle. Somehow that’s best practices, not bad practices.”

More important, perhaps, Brownrigg told LifeSiteNews this week, is that the doctors-only restriction conveys something of “the significance of the decision being made,” not only in terms of the health risks for the mother but also the fact “that she is killing a child.”

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