Canada lags in providing access to the internationally recognized gold standard for medical abortion - abortion induced with drugs rather than through surgical means, states a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Many countries use mifepristone, combined with misoprostol, which provides a safe, effective nonsurgical method for early abortion. Canada, however, has not approved the drug and instead uses a drug regimen not recommended by the World Health Organization. In 2009, The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada asked Health Canada to make mifepristone available to women in Canada.

The authors suggest that the small size of the Canadian market may be a deterrent for pharmaceutical companies to submit the drug for approval. As well, Health Canada may be biased against reproductive health drugs because the time lag to approve contraceptives is longer than for other drugs.

"It is time that Canadian women had the ability to choose the best regimen for medical abortion," writes Dr. Sheila Dunn, Women's College Hospital, with Rebecca Cook, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. "Availability of mifepristone with the attendant probability of reduced demand and therefore shortened wait lists for surgical abortions, could improve the capacity of the health care system to provide abortions earlier, when they are safest."