History of the discovery of drugs for Medical Abortion
For a long time, “mini-abortion” (vacuum aspiration) was practically the only method of terminating a pregnancy in the early stages. Complications after vacuum aspiration of the fetal egg are primarily associated with the mini-abortion process.
This is a surgical intervention – a tip (foreign body) is inserted into the uterine cavity, where the fetal egg is removed (sucked out) using negative pressure. Read more about Curettagethe of the uterine cavity.
The probability of injury and infection is always present with this method, which does not make it possible to avoid them. In this regard, scientists are constantly looking for a way to terminate a pregnancy without instrumental intervention.
Initial studies of the prostaglandins PGE2 and PGF2α as agents that actively influence uterine contractility began in the early 1970s. Many side effects were also noticed in those years, and an apparent effect affected the uterus. Further study of prostaglandins has led to the emergence of several modern drugs with minimal side effects.
Mifepristone (RU 38486; later shortened to RU 486) was developed by chemists at the Roussel-Uclaf Pharmaceutical Laboratory, headed by the physician and scientist Étienne-Émile Baulieu, in April 1980. It was found that Mifepristone has an affinity for progesterone and glucocorticosteroid receptors, while at the same time, an affinity for androgen receptors is manifested to a small extent. Thus, antiglucocorticosteroid and antiprogesterone (now the main) action of Mifepristone were discovered.
At the end of 1987, the Roussel-Uclaf laboratory completed clinical trials of Mifepristone, which was approved for use in France in 1988.
The discovery of Mifepristone marked the beginning of an essential new chapter in the history of attempts to find a substance to terminate unwanted pregnancies safely.
- The Science Behind the “Abortion Pill.”. Smithsonian Magazine. Becky Little. June 23, 2017.
- A Political History of RU-486. R. Alta Charo. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Study Decision Making; Hanna KE, editor. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1991.
- The History of Mifepristone. September 30, 2020. Reproductive Health Access Project.