Abortion pill freely available with prescription in Ontario

Mifegymiso, a two-drug combination also known as RU-486 or as the “abortion pill”, will be available in the Waterloo Region starting today, Aug. 10.

The medication was first approved by Health Canada back in 2015, but become available in the country this past January. On Aug. 3, the province of Ontario announced that Mifegymiso will be freely available with a prescription starting on Aug. 10 as part of their provincial budget.

New Brunswick and Alberta are currently covering the pill for free, with Quebec hoping to following suit later this year.

While Mifegymiso has been available in the country for the past eight months, the medication was not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Individuals in the Waterloo Region who wanted access to the medication were required to pay $300 to $460 out of pocket and travel to clinics in Toronto.

“It created a two-tier system where people who were able to afford the $300 to $460 medication and travel to Toronto to access the medication can receive it, but those who could not afford the money had to opt for an in-clinic abortion,” Lindsey Butcher, executive director of the SHORE Centre, originally Planned Parenthood Waterloo Region, said.

Since Mifegymiso became available in January, the SHORE Centre has referred more than 120 individuals from the Waterloo Region to clinics in Toronto to receive the medication. According to Butcher, the 120 individuals were those who were actually able to pay for the medication and travel.

“There’s still a large number of people out there who were not able to pay the money or travel to Toronto for it and so the need is quite significant here in our community.”

In order to gain access to the medication, women are required to be less than seven weeks – or 49 days – pregnant, based on the first day of their last menstrual cycle. Women cannot have an ectopic pregnancy, meaning their pregnancy needs to be developed in the uterus and not in the fallopian tubes. Women will also need to have an ultrasound or blood work done prior to receiving the prescription to Mifegymiso.

Butcher noted the main challenge right now in having free access to the medication is recruiting family doctors and nurse practitioners to become providers of Mifegymiso. The centre is also looking to recruit pharmacists in the area who will keep the medication in stock in order to establish a “network of abortion care” in the region.

“There’s still a number of barriers to actual access, so we’re just trying to work through those with the health care community so that there can be a nice, seamless process for patients accessing abortion care in the community,” Butcher explained.

Before gaining access to the medication, Butcher encourages individuals to talk to their doctors or nurse practitioners or to reach out to the SHORE Centre for any questions about Mifegymiso.

“We really hope to be able to recruit as many doctors and nurse practitioners as possible so that we do have access here in the Waterloo Region.”

 

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