British Columbia Warms Up to RU-486

OTTAWA—Ottawa Health Canada has written to the manufacturer of the dangerous abortion drug RU-486 at the request of the British Columbia government, which says the firm may file soon for approval of the drug. The letter, obtained by The Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, explains that the submission for RU-486 would be treated the same as one for any drug.

The dangerous abortion drug is available in France, Britain, Sweden and China. It is expected to be available in the United States next year, despite fierce opposition by pro-life groups.

John Dossetor, a policy adviser to federal Health Minister Allan Rock, described the letter, which was written a year ago, as a straightforward statement of how the drug-approval system in Canada works.

B.C. Health Minister Penny Priddy says the letter will reassure the company that the political climate in Canada means the company would get a fair hearing here.

“There has been a letter to Exelgyn saying that if they applied they would have a fair hearing, et cetera,” Priddy said in an interview. “That is kind of what the company needed to hear, not that they would get approval, or whatever, but that there was a climate that would provide a fair hearing for that, because there are some climates that wouldn't.”

Under the Food and Drug Act, Health Canada cannot ask a company to submit a drug because it would give the perception of bias. Hoechst-Marion-Roussel, which had owned the rights to the abortion drug, refused to seek approval for it in North America because it was so controversial. However, in April, 1997, Hoechst-Marion-Roussel gave the Canadian rights to a new company, Exelgyn, based in France.

The company was formed by Dr. Edouard Sakiz, one of the originators of the drug, Bernard Lachapelle, a spokesman for Hoechst-Marion-Roussel, said yesterday.

Exelgyn has not yet asked the Canadian government to approve the drug, Dossetor said. British Columbia has been pushing to make RU-486 available in Canada. (Pro-Life Infonet)