Deaths and Severe Adverse Events after the use of Mifepristone as an Abortifacient from September 2000 to February 2019

Issues Law Med. 2021 Spring;36(1):3-26.


Objectives: Primary: Analyze the Adverse Events (AEs) reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after use of mifepristone as an abortifacient. Secondary: Analyze maternal intent after ongoing pregnancy and investigate hemorrhage after mifepristone alone.

Methods: Adverse Event Reports (AERs) for mifepristone used as an abortifacient, submitted to the FDA from September 2000 to February 2019, were analyzed using the National Cancer Institute's Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAEv3).

Results: The FDA provided 6158 pages of AERs. Duplicates, non-US, or AERs previously published (Gary, 2006) were excluded. Of the remaining, there were 3197 unique, US-only AERs of which there were 537 (16.80%) with insufficient information to determine clinical severity, leaving 2660 (83.20%) Codable US AERs. (Figure 1). Of these, 20 were Deaths, 529 were Life-threatening, 1957 were Severe, 151 were Moderate, and 3 were Mild.

The deaths included: 9 (45.00%) sepsis, 4 (20.00%) drug toxicity/overdose, 1 (5.00%) ruptured ectopic pregnancy, 1 (5.00%) hemorrhage, 3 (15.00%) possible homicides, 1 (5.00%) suicide, 1 (5.00%) unknown. (Table 1).

Retained products of conception and hemorrhage caused most morbidity. There were 75 ectopic pregnancies, including 26 ruptured ectopics (includes one death).

There were 2243 surgeries including 2146 (95.68%) D&Cs of which only 853 (39.75%) were performed by abortion providers.

Of 452 patients with ongoing pregnancies, 102 (22.57%) chose to keep their baby, 148 (32.74%) had terminations, 1 (0.22%) miscarried, and 201 (44.47%) had unknown outcomes.

Hemorrhage occurred more often in those who took mifepristone and misoprostol (51.44%) than in those who took mifepristone alone (22.41%).

Conclusions: Significant morbidity and mortality have occurred following the use of mifepristone as an abortifacient. A pre-abortion ultrasound should be required to rule out ectopic pregnancy and confirm gestational age. The FDA AER system is inadequate and significantly underestimates the adverse events from mifepristone.

A mandatory registry of ongoing pregnancies is essential considering the number of ongoing pregnancies especially considering the known teratogenicity of misoprostol.

The decision to prevent the FDA from enforcing REMS during the COVID-19 pandemic needs to be reversed and REMS must be strengthened.

Keywords: Abortifacient; Abortion Pill; Adverse Event Reports; Adverse Events; DIY Abortion; Drug Safety; Emergency Medicine; FAERS; FDA; Medical Abortion; Medical Abortion Complications; Mifeprex; Mifepristone; Misoprostol; No touch abortion; Post-marketing Surveillance; REMS; RU-486; Risk Evaluation Mitigation Strategy; Self-Administered Abortion.

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents* / adverse effects
  • Abortifacient Agents, Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Abortion, Induced / adverse effects
  • COVID-19
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mifepristone / adverse effects*
  • Misoprostol
  • Pandemics
  • Pregnancy
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Abortifacient Agents
  • Abortifacient Agents, Steroidal
  • Misoprostol
  • Mifepristone