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How do you respond to those who say that taking mifepristone is “safer than taking Tylenol”?

by | Aug 17, 2023

Editor’s note. Yesterday a panel of three judges delivered an important albeit partial victory for pro-lifers in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As NRL wrote here and here, the 5th Circuit judges unanimously ruled that when “the FDA loosened regulations in 2016 and 2021 regarding the drug mifepristone, it did so unlawfully. They failed to give adequate consideration to demonstrated safety issues with the drug.”

We’ll take another deep dive into the decision today but it important to also note that media account continue to take as gospel the Department of Justice’s assurance that the use of mifepristone is safe, safe, and safer yet. Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon, NRL’s Director of Education & Research, brilliantly pointed out the flaws in the oft-heard phrase that “medication abortions” are “safe” and, indeed, “safer than taking Tylenol.” Below is Dr. O’Bannon’s response.

Considered in terms of deaths per dose, it simply isn’t so. What you have here is a not-so-clever statistical sleight of hand. Advocates try to get you to compare the number of deaths from a relatively lightly used product with one that is used billions of times by people every year.

We are told that about 150 American die from Tylenol use every year, usually by overdose or simply taking too much over an extended period of time.  At the same time, the FDA tells us that there have been 28 deaths that we know of among American mifepristone patients since the drug was approved in 2000.

So, 28 deaths from mifepristone in twenty years against 150 deaths from Tylenol in just a single year’s time?  Sounds like mifepristone is safer.

But wait. That’s 150 Tylenol deaths against a backdrop of 25 billion doses of Tylenol in a year.  We’re told that there have been only 5.6 million total chemical abortions with mifepristone in the U.S. since that 2000 approval. That is less than a thousandth of the sales of Tylenol in a single year.

Note what this does to your risk factor.

Using the minimal figures provided by the FDA, your risk of dying from taking mifepristone is about 1 in 200,000.  Not large, but not negligible.  And remember that your risk of a complication putting you in the emergency room is closer to one in 10.  

But your risk of death from Tylenol is actually something like one chance in 166.7 million, even including those who overdose and fail to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

This means that your risk of dying from mifepristone is about 833 times your risk of dying from Tylenol!

The statement that mifepristone is safer than Tylenol is clearly false.

 On April 5, National Right to Life released a white paper about the myths involving the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval and management of mifepristone (generic for Mifeprex).

Addressing Many of the Myths the Media is Repeating about the FDA’s Approval and Management of Mifeprex (Mifepristone)” can be accessed here.

Categories: Abortion Pill