KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — The Health Ministry is concerned over the unauthorised use of a non-approved labour inducing pill, Misoprostol (Cytotec).
The pill, which has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, is available online and can cause foetal abortion.
“It is difficult to detect when orders are placed online for purchases from abroad,” Health Minister Datuk Seri S. Subramaniam said yesterday.
It has been reported the pill was easily available online and a common brandname discussion topic in certain chatrooms, especially those related to “how to get a safe abortion”.
“In Malaysia, such pills require a doctor’s prescription, and are for specific purposes,” Dr Subramaniam, who is also the MIC president, said after opening the Ponggal festival at the party’s headquarters in Jalan Rahmat yesterday.
“If Internet sales were done domestically, we can detect it and take action against offenders. However, in these cases, the online sales take place with purchases made abroad, and the pills delivered via mail.
“This is one of the challenges we are facing in tackling the problem. We are concerned over this development.”
Dr Subramaniam said the Health Ministry was working with the Customs Department and police to detect packages containing such pills and also to establish whether these pills were being sold locally.
The pills are usually used to treat gastric discomfort.
On Jan 16, 2010, it was reported in the United Kingdom that a three-day-old baby died due to lack of oxygen to the brain at an East London Hospital after her mother underwent a difficult delivery and was prescribed Misoprostol — commonly used in abortion clinics — to induce contractions.
The parents later sued the Homerton Hospital in East London for failing to monitor the baby in the womb and adhere to safety protocols. The incident led to the sacking of a midwife.
Misoprostol had only been licensed in the UK to treat stomach ulcers or gastric, under medical supervision. The UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines stipulate it should not be used to induce labour unless as part of a clinical trial.
Two years ago, a woman from Georgia in the United States was charged with murder when she admitted taking medication to self-induce an abortion.
The charges were later dropped as Georgia state laws “provide immunity” to mothers in any act that may be committed against their unborn foetus.
On another matter, Dr Subramaniam said his officers would await analysis of samples of wheat flour alleged to contain bleaching agent.
The samples had been sent for analysis.
If the samples were found to contain a bleaching agent above the permitted amount allowed by the ministry’s Food Quality and Security Division, the sale of the flour would be withdrawn.
“The use of a non-permitted chemical substance is against the law and action can be taken, including the manufacturing,” he said.
Dr Subramaniam was asked to comment on claims that some flour contained harmful bleaching agent, and that four samples had been obtained for analysis.