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Sale of the Abortion Drug ella Surrounded by More Disinformation

In August, the FDA approved the new drug ella without adequate assurances of its safety for women and allowed the abortion-causing drug to be misleadingly labeled as contraception.  Now ella’s U.S.-based marketer, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and an online based pharmacy, KwikMed, are further distorting the facts as they start to sell the drug.

On its self-described “informative” website, Watson claims that ella “is not an abortion pill” and “if used as directed, emergency contraceptives do not work the same way as Mifeprex.”

However, the abortion drug Mifeprex (RU-486) is, like ella, a selective progesterone receptor modulator (SPRM).  They have similar chemical make-ups and modes of action.  Translation: they work the same way. 

Watson acknowledges that “ella may also work by preventing attachment to the uterus.” However, this description is misleading.  What, exactly, is prevented from attaching?

Watson does not say an embryo (a distinct human being) is prevented from implanting in the uterus.  A person viewing Watson’s website, who is not familiar with the science, may believe Watson is referring to an egg and not an embryo, since the phrase immediately follows a sentence stating ella may “stop[] or delay[] ovulation (the release of an egg from an ovary).”

The Frequently Asked Questions section on the KwikMed website, where women can order ella without even having seen a doctor, is blatantly inaccurate.  KwikMed tells women that ella “may also work by preventing attachment (implantation) of the egg to the uterine wall.”  However, it is a developing embryo, a distinct human being, that is prevented from implanting, not an egg.

Watson and KwikMed also fail to inform women that, by blocking progesterone, ella can starve an embryo to death even after implantation.  (During pregnancy, progesterone is necessary to build and maintain the lining of the uterine wall.  Thus, by blocking progesterone, an SPRM can either prevent a developing human embryo from implanting in the uterus, or it can kill an implanted embryo by starving it to death.)

While trying to distance ella from the chemically similar abortion drug RU-486, Watson and KwikMed instead want women to believe that ella is just a new version of Plan B (the so-called “morning after pill”). The KwikMed site states “the primary difference between ella and Plan B is the amount of time you have…to obtain and take the medication.” 

The primary difference is not the duration of approved use, but the difference in the type of drugs that ella and Plan B are.

While both ella and Plan B are touted as “emergency contraception,” the drugs have dissimilar chemical make-ups and work differently.  

When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Plan B (which is a progestin-based drug, as opposed to a progesterone blocker like ella and RU-486) it acknowledged that the drug not only prevented fertilization but “may also work by…preventing attachment to the uterus…”  

However, in approving ella, the FDA has chosen even broader language to describe how it may work: ella “may affect implantation.” This acknowledges that ella does more than “prevent” implantation – ella can disrupt implantation, killing the implanted embryo.

Furthermore, while the FDA made specific assurances that Plan B would not affect an embryo after implantation, just the opposite is true for ella.  The FDA advises that ella should not be taken if there is a “known or suspected” pregnancy. 

Reading the fine print, you will find Watson’s website includes a disclaimer that “The information provided is merely for educational purposes and its accuracy is not guaranteed.”  While attempting to protect themselves legally, their inaccuracy hurts women and may cost lives.