BY CHRISTINA WHITE
ANTI-ABORTIONISTS in the United States are urging the public to boycott a hay fever remedy made by a company which also manufactures an abortifacient drug. The —National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), backed by the strong lobbying group Christian Coalition, are asking US consumers not to buy Megra, a new anti-hay fever drug produced by Hoechst Marion Roussel (HMR) the American arm of the German pharmaceutical company, Hoechst.
Hoechst has been targeted as the producer of the controversial abortion pill RU-486 which is due for release in the US later this year. RLJ-486, pioneered by French parent company Roussel Uclaf, is widely used in Europe.
NRLC placed a full-page advertisement in USA Today earlier this month to promote the campaign timed to coincide with the prime hay-fever season. The advert read "RU486 takes the life of an unborn child after its tiny heart has begun to beat" and alleged that there were health risks associated with its use, a claim strongly denied by family planning groups.
Allegra, which was authorised for sale in the US last year, has been aggressively marketed and now accounts for 12 per cent of new prescriptions in the lucrative $2.5 billion US antihistamine market. Pharmaceutical companies spend thousands of dollars in the promotion and marketing of new products and the campaign aims to hit the company financially.
Charles Rouse, spokesman for HMR in America has said the campaign is "misdirected" as patent rights on RU-486 in the US -have-been rialisferred to the Population Council based in New York.
Allegra is sold in the US as a 60mg per tablet preparation to be taken twice daily. In the UK the formulation is 120 mg per tablet to be taken once daily, the product here is called Telfast. Both products are available on prescription only. A spokesperson for HMR confirmed that Telfast has been available in the UK for the last four weeks.
"When RU-486 was intro duced in this country there was talk of boycotting other products manufactured by the company but it never really got off the ground," explained Ian Murray of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Will SPUC launch a similar campaign in Blitain?. "Our focus is on the Election at present. When that's out of the way this could be something we might look at."
RU-486 is well established in the UK as an abortifacient drug used in conjunction with prostaglandin "to expel the contents of the uterus". Originally it was confined to the termination of pregnancies under nine weeks but SPUC believes tests are being carried out for the drug to be used at later stages.