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Security concerns for U.S. abortion pill company

Security concerns for U.S. abortion pill company

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Danco Laboratories, the secretive seller of a newly-approved abortion pill, rejoiced with women's reproductive health advocates Thursday but fears of violence by anti-abortion activists cast a shadow over the news.

"Any time abortion is in the headlines, we ask our members to take appropriate security precautions," Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation, said at a news conference called by Danco in New York. Danco has formed alliances with the pro-choice organization and other groups in its long quest for approval of the pill.

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    "We certainly hope that there's not an increase, although we want law enforcement to be particularly vigilant to prevent any violence if possible," Saporta said.

    U.S. health officials Thursday approved Mifeprex or "The Early Option Pill" as it has been named by Danco, that causes an abortion early in pregnancy without surgery. About one million women undergo surgical abortions in the United States each year. The pill is also known as RU-486 or mifepristone and made its debut in France in 1988.

    Big drug makers have not pursued the pill because of fears of violence by anti-abortion activists and boycotts. In recent years, some anti-abortion demonstrations have been violent, clinics have been bombed and doctors who provide abortions murdered in attacks carried out by the anti-abortion movement's most radical adherents.

    The approval by the Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for the pill's sale to doctors who provide abortions. Approval followed 12 years of political battles and efforts by anti-abortion activists to keep it off the U.S. market.

    Danco Laboratories spokeswoman Heather O'Neill denied the company was secretive despite its representatives refusing to give the firm's New York address or disclose the manufacturer of the new drug.

    "As is typical in the pharmaceutical industry, we are working with contract manufacturers and our agreements with them are not discussed publicly," O'Neill said.

    Danco is a private firm established to distribute and market the product. The U.S. rights to RU-486 are held by the Population Council, a non-profit family planning research group based in New York with Danco as its licensee.

    Danco has made alliances with pro-choice groups such as the National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood of America and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.

    "Now that we finally have approval of Mifeprex there are numerous ways in which people can access information on The Early Option Pill on a web site (, a toll free number, and a p.o. box number," O'Neill said in response to a question about the company's secretive operations.

    A report in the Sept. 5 edition of the Wall Street Journal cited company documents showing for-profit Danco and its non-profit partner, the Population Council, have received money to develop mifepristone from prominent investors such as Warren Buffett, George Soros and the late David Packard.

    The documents revealed details about Danco's manufacturing plans, the report said. It said the documents suggested that the company contracted with a China-based manufacturer, a sensitive issue given China's controversial one child family planning policy.

    Danco was proceeding cautiously with plans to sell the drug directly to physicians and clinics, the paper said. It said Danco planned to spend at least $1.2 million to teach doctors, counselors, midlevel clinicians and other medical personnel to administer the drug properly.

    Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

    FDA approval of abortion pill linked to stringent conditions
    June 7, 2000
    FDA action moves RU-486 closer to use in U.S.
    February 18, 2000

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration
    Planned Parenthood
    The RU-46 Files
    National Right to Life Organization

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