In an attempt to deflect or neutralise the justified criticisms of RU-486 (mifepristone), there has been a concerted campaign to paint RU-486 as being suitable to many other medical conditions. Much of the impetus to portray RU-486 in an altruistic, philanthropic light derives from an article by Dr Regelson of the Medical College of Virginia.
He states that his research shows RU-486 has many other treatment applications aside from abortion. “This clearly includes breast cancer, inoperable meningioma (brain tumour) and Cushing’s disease … and … its potential value, based on laboratory evidence and the experience with Cushing’s Disease, in treating some forms of hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and AIDS.”
Unfortunately there appears to be some doubt about both the validity of, and the motives behind these claims.
With regards to the use of RU-486 in AIDS, even Roussel’s international marketing director, Ariel Mouttet, considered it “‘scandalous’ to suggest that RU-486 could be used in the treatment of AIDS. Such claims only serve to raise the hopes of the sick ‘and to make Roussel-Uclaf look wicked.'”
The media have also focused on the claim by Dr Regelson that 18% (of patients) showed significant measurable tumour regression to RU-486 in one preliminary trial. This claim though is based upon only one trial comprising of only twenty-two women over only three months. The parameters of this study and the subsequent conclusions by Dr Regelson have been called into question by Richard Glasow Ph.D. He draws attention to a study which showed that RU-486 stimulated the growth of breast cancer cells in a test tube. According to Dr Glasow” most breast cancer are oestrogen-related, not progesterone related.”
The claim that RU-486 might be useful in inoperable menigioma (brain tumour) is difficult to sustain given that the only published reference in this field is in Los Angeles Times 28/9/1989. Of the fourteen in this study, four patients enjoyed a 10% shrinkage of the tumour, in six the tumour stabilised and in one person the tumour grew.
Finally, as to the use of RU-486 in Cushing’s Desease (pituitary-dependent bilateral adrenal hyperplasia) the evidence is very flimsy. Dr Regelson depends upon two studies, with a total of only two patients. One study went for less than one week. The second study involved only one patient who had Cushing’s syndrome (as distinct from Cushing’s Disease).