U.S. distribution of abortion pill expandedJuly 2, 1997
Web posted at: 2:39 p.m. EDT (1839 GMT)
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A New York abortion-rights group announced Wednesday it would expand its free distribution of the so-called abortion pill RU-486 to 10,000 women nationwide while plans to market the drug in the United States are delayed.
Abortion Rights Mobilization (ARM) had already provided the drug to 1,000 women in clinical trials in New York City; Seattle; San Francisco; Rochester, New York; Bellevue, Nebraska; Burlington, Vermont; and Kalispell, Montana.
With new funding from the John Merck Fund, ARM plans to announce additional sites in New York state, Texas, Maryland and Florida.
"These new clinics will bring RU-486 within reasonable traveling distance of all U.S. women," said Lawrence Lader, president of ARM, a nonprofit group.
Anti-abortion organizations in the United States have threatened to boycott any manufacturer of the drug. The maker of ARM's version of the abortion pill has been kept secret.
Used in Europe
The pill, sold in France, Sweden and Great Britain, causes uterine contractions that expel a fetus.
About 200,000 women have ended pregnancies with RU-486 since its introduction in 1988. The drug is also known as mifepristone.
The Food and Drug Administration gave the group permission to test the drug but does not allow it to charge a fee. A separate doctor's fee may be required.
In September, the FDA declared the drug safe and effective but withheld final approval to await more information on manufacturing and labeling.
Widespread availability in U.S. delayed
Lader said his group decided to supply the pill after learning in June that the Population Council would be unable to meet its target of distributing the drug by the end of 1997.
The New York-based Population Council holds U.S. rights to manufacture the drug, but has suffered a series of setbacks in marketing it. Other groups may copy patented drugs for research as long as they don't offer them commercially.
Lader said his group's trials with the drug use a smaller dose than in Europe. The change, he said, has increased its effectiveness and could reduce the risk of strokes associated with its use.
He said the U.S. dosage is effective in 98 percent of cases, compared to 95 percent for the European dose.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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