2nd group wants to test abortion pill in U.S. N.Y. organization says it already has a copy


NEW YORK - A New York organization said yesterday that it has made its own copy of the French abortion pill, RU-486, and would begin testing to help speed the drug to market in the United States.

But another group, which holds the American patent on RU-486, said the tests were unnecessary.

The group announcing the new tests, Abortion Rights Mobilization, said it had manufactured some of the pills and hoped to begin testing soon on 2,000 to 3,000 women around the country.

The Population Council, a nonprofit research group in New York that obtained the U.S. patent rights to RU-486 two years ago, said, however, that it had just completed clinical trials in which 2,100 women were given the drug to terminate their pregnancies.

The data are now being analyzed and will soon be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration and a scientific journal, said a spokeswoman, Sandra Waldman.

But Larry Lader, director of the Mobilization, said the new testing would provide participating women continued access to the drug in the coming months and would allow his group to provide additional data to the FDA and to test another, similar-acting drug called methotrexate at the same time.

Some women will be given one drug and some the other, and the results will be compared.

The French pharmaceutical company Roussel Uclaf and its German parent, Hoechst, have long marketed RU-486 in France, Sweden and Britain but have decided that because of the vocal anti-abortion movement in the United States, they will not try to market it here.

After long delays, Roussel Uclaf turned the patent over to the Population Council, which has successfully brought two contraceptives to market in the United States when private industry did not do so: an intrauterine device and the long-lasting contraceptive implant Norplant.

Although the Population Council holds the American patent on RU-486, Abortion Rights Mobilization was able to produce a copy because by law any group can copy a patented drug as long as the copy is used for research and not for commercial sale.

Pub Date: 3/14/96

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