Deaths and Severe Adverse Events after the use of Mifepristone as an Abortifacient from September 2000 to February 2019

April 1, 2021
Edition: Spring 2021
Volume: 36
Issue: 1
Article: 1

Table of Contents


Objectives: Primary: Analyze the Adverse Events (AEs) reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after use of mifepristone as an abortifacient. Secondary: Analyze maternal intent after ongoing pregnancy and investigate hemorrhage after mifepristone alone.

Methods: Adverse Event Reports (AERs) for mifepristone used as an abortifacient, submitted to the FDA from September 2000 to February 2019, were analyzed using the National Cancer Institute’s Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAEv3).

Results: The FDA provided 6158 pages of AERs. Duplicates, nonUS, or AERs previously published (Gary, 2006) were excluded.  Of the remaining, there were 3197 unique, US-only AERs of which there were 537 (16.80%) with insufficient information to determine clinical severity, leaving 2660 (83.20%) Codable US AERs. (Figure 1). Of these, 20 were Deaths, 529 were Life-threatening, 1957 were Severe, 151 were Moderate, and 3 were Mild.

The deaths included: 9 (45.00%) sepsis, 4 (20.00%) drug toxicity/ overdose, 1 (5.00%) ruptured ectopic pregnancy, 1 (5.00%) hemorrhage, 3 (15.00%) possible homicides, 1 (5.00%) suicide, 1 (5.00%) unknown. (Table 1)

Retained products of conception and hemorrhage caused most morbidity.  There were 75 ectopic pregnancies, including 26 ruptured ectopics (includes one death).

There were 2243 surgeries including 2146 (95.68%) D&Cs of which only 853 (39.75%) were performed by abortion providers.

Of 452 patients with ongoing pregnancies, 102 (22.57%) chose to keep their baby, 148 (32.74%) had terminations, 1 (0.22%) miscarried, and 201 (44.47%) had unknown outcomes.

Hemorrhage occurred more often in those who took mifepristone and misoprostol (51.44%) than in those who took mifepristone alone (22.41%).

Conclusions: Significant morbidity and mortality have occurred following the use of mifepristone as an abortifacient. A pre-abortion ultrasound should be required to rule out ectopic pregnancy and confirm gestational age. The FDA AER system is inadequate and significantly underestimates the adverse events from mifepristone.

A mandatory registry of ongoing pregnancies is essential considering the number of ongoing pregnancies especially considering the known teratogenicity of misoprostol.

The decision to prevent the FDA from enforcing REMS during the COVID-19 pandemic needs to be reversed and REMS must be strengthened.

Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest. Authors note that although Dr. Harrison is an associate editor for Issues in Law and Medicine, she recused herself from any involvement in the peer review process for this manuscript.

Keywords: Mifepristone, Mifeprex, RU-486, Misoprostol, Abortifacient, Medical Abortion, Abortion Pill, Medical Abortion Complications, No touch abortion, DIY Abortion, Self-Administered Abortion, Adverse Events, Adverse Event Reports, Post-marketing Surveillance, FAERS, Drug Safety, Emergency Medicine, FDA, REMS, Risk Evaluation Mitigation Strategy.

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About the Authors

Affiliation: Associate Scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
Affiliation: Executive Director, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, PO Box 395 Eau Claire, Michigan 49111-0395. Ph 202 230-0997.
Affiliation: Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI.
Affiliation: Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Affiliation: Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine.