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Medicines regulation and law

Women in England will be able to complete medical abortions at home by end of 2018

Women in England will be able to complete medical abortion procedures at home by the end of 2018, the government has announced. 

Medical abortions are induced by a combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, which are to be taken between 24–48 hours apart. Mifepristone, which blocks the action of progesterone and triggers uterine contractions, is taken first. This is followed by misoprostol, which triggers further uterine contractions and completes the abortion process.

Currently, women in England must take both medications at a clinic, but under the new law women will only have to take mifepristone at the clinic and will be able to take misoprostol at home. 

In a statement, the government said that the requirement for two clinical visits was frequently difficult to organise and often resulted in discomfort or trauma as many women begin to miscarry on their journey home.

Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, welcomed the news and said that the change in legislation would “allow women to avoid the distress and embarrassment of bleeding and pain during their journey home from an unnecessary second visit to a clinic or hospital”.

“It will also improve access to safe and regulated abortion care and take pressure off NHS services,” said Regan.

Medical abortions account for four out of five terminations, and may be used to terminate pregnancies before ten weeks’ gestation. In October 2017, Scotland became the first UK nation to allow women to take both medicines at home, and in June 2018, the Welsh government followed suit. 

Northern Ireland is the only country in the UK where women cannot choose to have an abortion.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205367

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