Illegal abortion pills sold online in Malaysia

Medical practitioners said such drugs are not for self-consumption or over-the-counter sales..


March 24, 2022

PETALING JAYA – Illegal abortion pills are being openly sold on ecommerce websites despite the Health Ministry’s repeated warnings on such unauthorised products.

The Star found that pills such as Mifepristone, which are not permitted for sale in Malaysia, are being pitched on popular online shopping sites for RM169.90 for a strip of five. There are several options being sold at different price points.

The promotional literature claims the product’s original price is RM449 and it is being sold at a discounted rate. It further claims that the pills are safe and effective.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that such pills are not registered for sale in Malaysia.

“Mifepristone has not been registered here at all. As for Misoprostol … that we have deregistered,” he said when contacted.

He also warned that it is dangerous to consume abortion pills without a prescription and worse if there are side effects.

“These sold online are dangerous. And illegal as they are not registered locally,” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham added that the Pharmacy Enforcement Division will take the necessary action. The sellers claim that the pills can be used for pregnancy under 59 days and it takes five pills to see results.

“So five tablet must finish – 24 hours later you can see the results,” the product description reads.

According to the website, more than 100 of these boxes have been sold.

As for the testimonials, some alleged users claim they started to see the results as quickly as 20 minutes. They also suggest that those who cannot bear pain to have painkillers or paracetamol on standby.

There were others who however say the pill did not work for them.

Medical practitioners said such drugs are not for self-consumption or over-the-counter sales. Abortion, they said, must be done under strict monitoring by an obstetrician.

“It comes with a lot of side effects and this is not for the public,” a doctor said on condition of anonymity.

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Milton Lum said the use of Mifepristone is safe only when it is taken under medical supervision, adding that the pill has been endorsed for use in “medical abortion” by international organisations such as the World Health Organisation, International Federation of Gynaecology and International Planned Parenthood Federation.

“Its risks include infection, bleeding, uterine rupture. Toxic shock is potentially fatal,” said the past president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations and the Malaysian Medical Association.

The more important issue, Dr Lum said, is unsafe abortion with its risks of infection, bleeding and trauma to internal organs including uterine rupture.

He cautioned women against self-medicating to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

“If you have an unwanted pregnancy, have a discussion with your doctor. Do not self-medicate,” he urged strongly.

He said government agencies have a duty to track and block online sellers and confiscate individual packages as the pill is not licensed for use in Malaysia.

However, he noted that clampdowns may be difficult and impractical.

“The more practical approach is to license Mifepristone for use by doctors. Policies on reproductive health should not be based on religious or political sensitivities,” he said.

According to Section 312 of the Penal Code, a pregnancy can only be terminated when a registered medical practitioner views the continuance of the pregnancy may pose a risk to the mother’s life or cause injury to their physical or mental health.

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