What 'abortion pills' are also used for, from suicide prevention to stomach ulcers
SCOTUSruling may hinder access to or research on the drugs used in the " abortion pill."
- Mifepristone is also used to treat Cushing's disease, and misoprostol helps prevent stomach ulcers.
On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that made it legal to seek abortions in the US with limited federal government intervention. In effect, at least 13 states are now banning or severely restricting abortion access.
What that means for the future of the so-called "
The pill refers to two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. The first halts progesterone production, which is needed for a pregnancy to grow. The second causes the uterus to expel any pregnancy tissue, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Mifepristone is taken orally, and misoprostol can be taken orally, inserted in the vagina, or dissolved under the tongue or through the cheek. Together, they can be used for abortions up until about nine weeks, and to treat miscarriages and stillbirths.
On their own, the pills can treat a range of other conditions, and are being studied to treat many more.
Mifepristone is used for Cushing disease
Cushing disease is a rare, progressive disorder in which the body makes too much of the stress hormone cortisol. People with it can experience rapid weight gain around the belly, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, skin problems, memory issues, depression and more, according to Oregon Health and Science University's Pituitary Center.
While most people with the condition improve with a surgery to remove the growth that's causing the cortisol spike, others manage the condition with medications including mifepristone. The drug, which also tamps down on cortisol production, was FDA-approved to treat Cushing's in 2012.
Initial research showed a once-daily dose helped 60% of patients improve their blood sugar levels. And, 87% of patients using it have found it improves their symptoms and well-being, Dr. Laurence Kennedy, an endocrinology specialist, wrote for the Cleveland Clinic.
That's important because "left untreated, the prognosis for this condition is worse than most cancers," he wrote.
Researchers are finding mifepristone may treat Gulf War Syndrome
Gulf War Syndrome is a complex condition affecting about a third of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. It's believed to be caused by a mix of chemical and psychological factors, and can lead to fatigue, pain, cognitive problems, skin issues, and diarrhea, according to Hopkins Medicine.
Researchers are now studying how mifepristone, in combination with a drug approved for arthritis, may provide relief to these veterans by helping to block some of their overactive stress signals. But even before Friday's ruling, researchers faced "logistical nightmares" getting the trial off the ground due to mifepristone's tie to abortion care, Dr. Nancy Klimas, who's spent nearly 30 years seeking a Gulf War Syndrome cure, told NBC.
Mifepristone is being studied for cancers, addiction, and depression
In Indiana, trials looking at how mifepristone may help prevent breast cancer are underway. The theory is that the drug's progesterone-blocking effects can inhibit cancer growth in women with a BRCA1 mutation, which raises the risk of breast and other cancers.
It's also being studied for brain cancer, prostate cancer, alcohol use disorder, and depression. In fact, the National Institutes of
"This is the only drug like it on the market," Klimas told NBC. "If you took this one away, it would be taking away a great big tool."
Misoprostol can treat stomach ulcers
Misoprostol, the other drug used in a medical abortion, is also used to treat stomach ulcers. It works by decreasing stomach acid in people whose other medications, like aspirin, raise the risk of ulcers, according to the National Library of Medicine.
It's also being studied to treat postpartum hemorrhage, fibroids, c-section complications, and even to improve success rates of IUD insertions.
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