Argentina has green-lighted production of an abortion drug for institutional and hospital use, despite the government's recent rejection of a bill that would have legalized abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The drug, known as Misoprostol, is currently available by prescription in pharmacies and hospitals mixed with diclofenac and used for gastric purposes. Imported and pricey, it's beyond the reach of much of the population, even on the black market.
Now, Argentina's National Authority of Medicine, Food and Technology (ANMAT) has authorized Laboratorio Dominguez to produce and commercialize the drug under the name MISOP 200 (200µg), as a vaginal suppository. However, only hospitals with obstetric services and other authorized institutions will be able to buy it.
The laboratory has been developing the drug since 2009 and was granted authorization for its production in July. Now, it's asking ANMAT for authorization to sell the drug in pharmacies.
"We hope by the end of the year, if it's approved soon," Sandra Rismondo, Laboratorio Dominguez's technical director, told El Cronista. "We can commercialize the product in pharmacies at a much lower price than the current one in the market."
In the province of Santa Fe, the Lif public pharmaceutical laboratory has already started production of the drug, and hopes to soon have its first products available for free, according to Health Ministry Coordinator Oraldo Llanos.
During the first half of 2018, about 450 legal abortions were carried out in Santa Fe, most of them using drugs bought at high prices.
Despite being considered one of the safest abortion methods by the World Health Organization, Misoprostol remains relatively unknown, while women turn to other, more dangerous methods.
During the recent abortion debate in Argentina, feminist and pro-choice organizations demanded the drug be made generally available, without prescription and for obstetric purposes, in order to save the lives of women who might otherwise pursue more dangerous options.
Several provinces have protocols and programs aimed at aiding pregnant women seeking to terminate their pregnancies, but many women still experience social stigma and a lack of information.
On Monday, a 34-year-old woman died at a hospital in Buenos Aires after complications performing a clandestine abortion using parsley. On the same day, another woman died in similar conditions in the same province. These were the first two known deaths related to abortion since the Senate rejected the abortion bill.
"We thought the information was reaching everywhere, that we had popularized the access to Misoprostol so clandestine abortions would be as safe as possible, but the last death shows that information is not reaching or that people's money is not enough," said Miranda Gonzalez, member of the Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free Abortion.
It's estimated there are 354, 627 illegal abortions carried out in Argentina every year, which means 984 a day and 41 per hour. As a result, about 70,200 women are hospitalized every year. Supporters of legal abortion believe it would reduce deaths due to unsafe procedures by 92 percent.
The Senate ruled against the abortion bill on August 9 with 38 to 31 votes, despite it being already approved by the lower house. Argentina's legislative branch won't be able to discuss the matter again until 2019.