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News, 4 January 2002

4 January 2002

4 January 2002 The morning-after pill has been banned in the Philippines because it can cause an abortion. The Philippines bureau of food and drugs has banned the importation, sale and use of Postinor, the tradename under which levonorgestrel 0.75 mg was marketed in the Philippines, thereby reversing a decision to register the drug on 7 December last year. All supplies of the drug currently in the Philippines have been recalled. Anyone who continues to import, sell or prescribe the drug in the Philippines will now face heavy penalties and criminal charges. A statement issued by the Bureau and signed by the secretary of health reads: "The Bureau, after careful and thorough evaluation of the position papers and research ... has determined with the concurrence of the Secretary of Health that Postinor has abortifacient effect and contravenes existing provisions of law on the matter." [Philippines Bureau of Food and Drugs circular no.18, 2001; Family Front International media release, 4 January] SPUC, which is currently engaged in a legal action to restrict provision of the morning-after pill in the UK on the basis that it causes abortions, welcomed the news and congratulated all those involved in the campaign against the drug in the Philippines. Dolly the sheep, the world's first cloned mammal, has developed arthritis at an unexpectedly early age. Professor Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, said that Dolly's condition may have been brought on by genetic defects caused by the cloning process, and called for more research into the impact of cloning on the health of cloned animals. [BBC News online, 4 January ] Dominic Baster of SPUC observed: "Professor Wilmut's admission that little is known about the impact of the cloning process should be seen as a warning of the hidden dangers to adult human health of so-called therapeutic cloning. It further strengthens the case for the ethical alternative to so-called therapeutic cloning provided by adult stem cell technology." The Canadian Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology is urging doctors to give women open-ended prescriptions for the abortifacient morning-after pill so that they can obtain the drug without visiting their doctor repeatedly. To date, the only Canadian provinces which have amended provincial law to make the morning-after pill available without prescription are British Columbia and Quebec, but a number of groups are calling for the reclassification of the drug at the federal level. Mark Beaudet, vice-president of sales and marketing for Paladin Labs Inc., the company which distributes the Plan-B morning-after pill in Canada, said that an application would be made this year to reclassify Plan-B as a "behind-the-counter" drug available from pharmacists. [Globe and Mail, 3 January; via Pro-Life E-News] New research has suggested that women who smoke during pregnancy are exposing their children to increased risks of diabetes and obesity in later life. The Swedish research is published in the British Medical Journal and is based on a group of Britons born in 1954 and monitored for smoking habits, diabetes and weight. The incidence of diabetes among those whose mothers smoked during pregnancy was a third more than doctors would have expected. [BBC News online, 4 January ] The governor of Michigan has signed a law which promotes end of life care. The new law is intended to promote better pain management for terminally ill patients and to improve access to hospice care. Governor John Engler said that patients should be entitled to expect effective and compassionate care at the end of their lives. Pro-life groups welcomed the measure as a means of providing positive, life-affirming alternatives to assisted suicide. [AP, 3 January; via Pro-Life Infonet]

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