In the 5 years since mifepristone, the so-called abortion pill, was approved in the United States, doctors have reported the deaths of four healthy women shortly after they took the drug, according to a new report. All four women died of toxic shock syndrome, and a research team is proposing "a possible association" between mifepristone and this rare but fatal condition.
The drug is also known as RU-486 and Mifeprex. Since its approval, roughly 460,000 doses have been distributed in the United States for nonsurgical abortions.
Researchers who have now examined medical and autopsy records of the four dead women report striking similarities. All the women developed uterine infections with Clostridium sordellii, a microbe that rarely attacks people but that can cause toxic shock when it does.
The women were 18, 21, 22, and 34 years old. All took the medication as prescribed: one mifepristone dose orally, followed by three vaginally inserted tablets of a drug