A doctor testifying in a trial challenging a North Dakota law that opponents argue would end drug-induced abortions said Wednesday it's very common to prescribe drugs for purposes other than what's printed on their final label.
The Red River Women's Clinic of Fargo is challenging the 2011 law that bans the use of one of two drugs used to induce abortions.
The law bans the use of an abortion-inducing drug not labeled for that purpose. The state's lone abortion clinic uses a combination of two drugs in medication abortions. One is labeled for use in medication abortions, while the second is not.
Dr. Daniel Grossman, an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, testified in the trial's second day as an expert witness for the Fargo clinic.
The Forum newspaper reports that Grossman testified that off-label drug use is common because drug registration is what allows a drug to be marketed for a particular purpose.
"And if there isn't necessarily a commercial motivation for a drug company to register a drug for a certain indication, then a drug may not get registered for that indication even though there may be ample evidence to support its use," Grossman said.
Medication abortions, which are done if a woman is pregnant for 63 days or less, involve the use of a combination of two drugs, mifeprex and misoprostol. The law maintains the use of any drug to cause an abortion must meet "the protocol tested and authorized" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Misoprostol is not labeled as an abortion-inducing drug.
Grossman testified that surgical abortion is effective 99 percent of the time and typically takes 10 minutes or less, while medication abortion is effective 96 percent of the time and the bleeding associated with it can last for more than a week. Still, he said, "many women have a very strong preference for that method."