IPPF’s Medical Abortion Commodities Database: one year on

Eliane, Masters student at the Mimboman clinic in Cameroon

Launched nearly a year ago today, IPPF’s Medical Abortion Commodities Database is filling a knowledge gap and helping those working on safe abortion identify quality products to use in healthcare programmes and to inform policy. People in 79 countries around the world have used the site since its launch.

Globally, an estimated 25 million unsafe abortions occur every year, with 97 per cent of those in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, most with restrictive abortion laws. In the past decade, however, abortions have become safer, largely due to the increasing availability and use of medical abortion with mifepristone and misoprostol. Although medical abortion is most effective with a combined regimen of these two drugs, mifepristone is not as widely available as misoprostol, and many abortions are carried out safely using misoprostol only, often outside a clinical setting.

Misoprostol is prone to rapid degeneration when exposed to humidity and moisture. There have been anecdotal and documented reports of poor quality misoprostol used in some settings, which can result in a range of complications including continued pregnancy, bleeding or retained products of conception. While the incidence of medical abortion is increasing, service providers and procurement personnel face challenges in knowing which misoprostol brands to procure for safe medical abortion at the country level.

As a global advocate for and provider of safe and legal abortion services, IPPF partnered with Gynuity Health Projects and Concept Foundation, and collaborated with many other organizations working on safe abortion, to fill this knowledge gap. Together, we determined the country-level availability and quality of medical abortion commodities around the world and developed www.MedAb.org to house this important information. It is an easy-to-navigate website, where people can search by country, commodity type and/or brand name, from their desktops, tablets or smartphones. Only the misoprostol brands with sufficient evidence of quality are included on the site.

The site launched with information on products in 89 countries. We have been updating it on an ongoing basis, often with the support and collaboration of other organizations, and the number of countries with information has increased to 97. This number will continue to grow in the coming months as we are working with Gynuity to collect and validate data from even more countries.

Since the launch, we have added a graphic to illustrate the availability of medical abortion commodities in countries by income status. We will continue to add useful graphics to display information that can be used for policy and programming, including identifying where to invest resources and efforts to increase availability of quality medical abortion commodities.

medical abortion