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Misoprostol, a prostaglandin E1 analog marketed as Cytotec® for the prevention and treatment of gastric ulcers, is inexpensive and registered for use in over 80 countries. Many scientific articles show the preparation to be safe and effective for various reproductive health indications, including cervical softening and early pregnancy termination. Owing to the extensive body of published literature on these indications, misoprostol is now widely used for several reproductive health indications. The abortifacient properties of misoprostol are well known to medical professionals and frequently to the public. As noted in this meeting report, because the drug is available at low cost, many women have opted for self-administration of the method to terminate their pregnancies. The pharmaceutical industry and the public health community have raised the concern that if such an abortion attempt fails and the pregnancy results in a live birth, exposure of the fetus to misoprostol in utero could increase the risk of birth anomalies. The most extensively documented accounts of self-medication with misoprostol for induced abortion have come from Brazil, thus the case of Brazil provides a unique opportunity for studying the potential teratogenicity of misoprostol.






Robert H. Ebert Program on Critical Issues in Reproductive Health