Japan’s health ministry has approved the country’s first abortion pill, in a major step for reproductive rights in the Asian country
The move by the Japanese ministry’s pharmaceutical board granted approval to the MeFeego Pack, an abortion pill manufactured by British pharmaceutical Linepharma,
It comes decades after other countries made abortion medication widely available.
The ministry had first convened in January 2023 to review the drug, before asking for the public to submit their opinions through an online portal. It will now go to the health minister for final approval.
The medication consists of two types of pill, and can be used within nine weeks of pregnancy, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK. In a clinical trial in Japan, 93% of participants had a complete abortion within 24 hours, NHK reported.
The medication combines mifepristone and misoprostol, which the World Health Organization has included in its Essential Medicines List, described as safe and effective for pregnant people.
To date, only surgical abortion is available in Japan through two methods: the curettage method, which removes tissue inside the uterus with a metal instrument, and the evacuation method, which sucks out tissue through a tube, according to NHK.
The WHO has described curettage as an “obsolete” method that is less safe and much more painful, and has called for it to be replaced by the evacuation method or by medication like abortion pills.
Japanese activists have been pushing for years for approval of the pills, with similar medications made available decades ago in other countries as Japan lagged ever further behind.
For instance, mifepristone was first approved in France in 1988, and in the US in 2000.