From ........... Daily News Miner .......... 29 July 96 A-4


RU-486, the abortion-inducing pill, is finally nearing approval for marketing in the U.S. after a decade of controversy. An advisory committee has recommended that the drug be considered safe and effective, thus clearing the way for likely final approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

Approval will provide an accessible alternative to surgical abortions and will be welcomed by all those who fear anti-abortion protesters. Once RU-486 is approved, a woman will be able to exercise an important right in the utmost privacy of a doctor's office or a clinic. The recommendation is unlikely to defuse and may even intensify abortion debate, especially if FDA approval comes before the November election.

RU-486 has been available in France, Britain and Sweden for more than a decade. But fears about anti-abortion protests and boycotts of any company manufacturing or distributing the drug have kept it out of the U.S. Upon taking office, President Clinton directed the Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA's parent agency, to review ways to get RU-486 on the market.

The Population Council, a nonprofit contraceptive research group, was given the American patent rights for the drug in 1994. After conducting clinical trials on 2,100 women, the Population Council is now seeking approval from the FDA, which must determine whether the drug is safe and effective.

The sensitive nature of RU-486 was reflected in the unusual security precautions taken by the agency for last week's hearing before the advisory committee of medical and scientific experts. Witnesses had to sign a register and were taken to a windowless building in special vans. The Population Council will not reveal the name of the company that will actually make the drug for fear of financial and political reprisals.

RU-486 acts to counteract progesterone, a hormone needed to sustain a pregnancy. A patient takes three pills of RU-486, also known as mifepristone, up to seven weeks after the last menstrual period. Then, in another 36 or 48 hours, she takes two tablets of another drug, misopristol, which causes the uterus to contract, thus expelling the fetus. The pills have proved effective in about 96 percent of cases.

The FDA could approve the drug in the next few months. For the million-plus women who face abortions every year, the Clinton administration and the Population Council deserve praise for sticking to their convictions.

The The New York Times published the preceding editorial

on Tuesday, July 23. -END QUOTE-