Pharmacists in British Columbia may be permitted to distribute abortion pills directly to women, according to the province’s regulatory colleges that oversee both doctors and pharmacists.
But, Health Canada disagrees with this move, arguing that only physicians should be distributing abortion medications that can end a woman’s pregnancy.
Both the College of Pharmacists and the College of Physicians and Surgeons in B.C. are looking for ways to circumvent federal drug regulators’ plans to enforce physician-only dispensing of a two-step abortion regimen called Mifegymiso, which is supposed to be made available in Canada before the end of this year.
Health Canada believes that it is much safer for doctors to be the ones distributing Mifegymiso, originally known as RU-486, which is the norm in most countries that have approved the drug.
However, abortion advocates claim that doctor’s offices are not equipped to distribute Mifegymiso, which may discourage them from offering it to patients.
Currently, B.C. makes it hard for physicians to dispense pharmaceuticals directly to patients because they are required to have special authorization.
B.C. has apparently found a way to bypass the doctor-dispensing rule, which is to encourage physicians to prescribe the abortion pill “off label” with the permission of regulators. Off-label typically refers to doctors prescribing a drug for conditions that the medication was not intended to treat.
Physicians and pharmacists who prescribe off-label drugs would be held accountable for their decisions in terms of their professional responsibility and would be exposed to civil liability for dispensing such drugs.
Mifegymiso is comprised of two medications: mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, causing the lining of uterus to break. Misoprostol is taken 24 to 48 hours after and induces contractions that are similar to a natural miscarriage.