For Immediate Release

April 1, 2000


BALTIMORE, MD – Supporters of mifepristone (formerly known at RU 486) are stepping up efforts for its release and distribution to US women. Mifepristone has been proven safe and effective not only as a form of early abortion but also as a possible treatment of serious illnesses including meningioma (brain tumors), fibroid tumors, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and other serious diseases and conditions that primarily affect women. At a three-day Mifepristone Global Summit, the Feminist Majority Foundation today, joined by medical experts, called upon the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to immediately approve mifepristone which it deemed safe and effective as a method of early abortion in 1996. The Foundation also launched a drive to urge the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to dramatically increase funding for clinical trials on mifepristone’s many possible uses and to expand anti-progestin research overall. “Anti-abortion forces have cost precious years of important mifepristone research. The women of America cannot afford to wait any longer. The NIH – the largest funder of research in the world – must help make up for this lost ground,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. Because of difficulties in obtaining supplies of mifepristone before the drug receives final FDA approval, too few mifepristone trials are currently underway in the United States. “Women and men who are suffering from serious and debilitating diseases which may be treated with mifepristone must have access to this possible medical breakthrough,” urged Smeal. Committed to making mifepristone available to patients in need, the Feminist Majority Foundation is now supplying the medication on a compassionate use basis for a small number of patients who have obtained single-patient FDA approval for use. These patients suffer from diseases which have no other effective treatment and which have been shown to respond to mifepristone. The Feminist Majority Foundation was awarded sole responsibility to administer the Compassionate Use Program. “But tragically there was only a very small supply of mifepristone allowed today in the U.S. This must change. Mifepristone must be approved by the FDA,” said Smeal. Before the Feminist Majority stepped forward to provide the medication on a compassionate use basis, these patients were in danger of losing access to the drug. “Just imagine knowing that there is a drug out there that can help you, but you cannot obtain it,” said Peg Yorkin, chair of the board of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “How can we possibly deny this drug to people knowing of its medical potential?” Doris Laird, Ph.D., a meningioma victim and one of the patients in the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Compassionate Use Program, criticized the political obstacles that imperiled her access to the drug. “I see this is as a matter of life and death. Mifepristone is saving my life and sight. Discontinuing its use can ultimately result in death or blindness. It is enabling me to continue my career as a professor of Humanities at Florida A & M University,” said Laird. Professor Laird has been taking mifepristone since 1993. Prior to this Professor Laird underwent three brain surgeries. “Mifepristone is a non-invasive therapy. I believe that if I had been put on this medication after my first brain surgery I would not have suffered the damage and depression resulting from my second craniotomy, and been spared the ordeal of a third brain surgery.” Doris Laird, together with her physician and noted neurosurgeon Nettleton Payne, MD, appeared at the Mifepristone Global Summit held at Feminist Expo 2000. Eric Schaff, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester, who directs clinical trials on mifepristone’s use as a treatment for fibroid tumors in addition to early abortion, also spoke at the Mifepristone Global Summit. Research by Schaff and others suggests that the reduction of fibroid tu


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