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RU-486 may be closer to U.S. distribution despite parent firm reputation anxieties.

KANSAS CITY, Mo.-- Despite recent U.S. government pressure to expand use of the abortion pill RU-486 to include this country, the parent company holding the patent on the controversial drug is reluctant to go along with this plan, according to a recently published report. It was supposed to be for cancer," the press officer for the Germany-based company Hoechst AG was quoted as saying in the Feb. 22 Wall Street Journal. "The other thing (abortion) was a side effect."

The story portrayed the dilemma faced by Wolfgang Hilger, Hoechst's chairman and "a devout Roman Catholic."

In his only public pronouncement on the subject, he wrote in a letter to the International Federation Of Gynecology and Obstetrics: "It's my conviction that Hoechst should not market RU-486. Commercialization of a drug-facilitating -- and -easing -- abortion is against Hoechst's corporate credo."

The drug is currently manufactured in France by a Hoechst subsidiary, Roussel-Uclaf. The New York Times, meanwhile, reported Feb. 25 that the president of Roussel-Uclaf had told the U.S. Commissioner of Food and Drugs that available in the United States.

The Commissioner, Dr. David A. Kessler, and the pharmaceutical executive, Edouard Sakiz, met in Rockville, Md., Feb. 24. Kessler said Sakiz was willing to discuss how the drug could be brought to market by another company or research instituted under an agreement with his company.

Hoechst AG's fear, The Wall Street Journal reported, is that the pill will tarnish its reputation as it would facilitate abortion being used as a form of birth control in the United States. The drug could be issued in a doctor's office and taken at home. This is not allowed in France, Britain or Sweden, where it is currently available.

The Reagan and Bush administrations were adamantly opposed to use of the abortion pill in the United States. President Clinton has urged his Human Services secretary to "promote the testing, licensing and manufacturing" of RU-486 in the United States.

Meanwhile, Richard D. Glasow, education director of the National Right to Life Committee, said last week that moves to test a Chinese clone of the abortion pill in the United States are a ploy.

Recently, Lawrence Lader, head of Abortion Rights Mobilization, said his organization would begin testing the Chinese abortion ill.

Richard Doerflinger, associate director for policy development of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, criticized Lader for minimizing the risks of RU-486. Doerflinger said supporters of the abortion pill claim it is safer than surgical abortions, but statistics do not bear this out. There is one death for every 500,000 surgical abortions, he said, but in the first 70,000 uses of the pill in France, there was one death and two heart attacks that could have been fatal."
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Title Annotation:Hoechst AG
Author:Edwards, Robin
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Mar 5, 1993
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