Misoprostol dose and route after mifepristone for early medical abortion: a randomised controlled noninferiority trial


H von Hertzen, Concept Foundation, Ch Louis Dunant 17, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Email helena.vonhertzen@gmail.com


Please cite this paper as: von Hertzen H, Huong N, Piaggio G, Bayalag M, Cabezas E, Fang A, Gemzell-Danielsson K, Hinh N, Mittal S, Ng E, Chaturachinda K, Pinter B, Puscasiu L, Savardekar L, Shenoy S, Khomassuridge A, Tuyet H, Velasco A, Peregoudov A, for the WHO Research Group on Postovulatory Methods of Fertility Regulation. Misoprostol dose and route after mifepristone for early medical abortion: a randomised controlled noninferiority trial. BJOG 2010;117:1186–1196.

Objective  To compare 400 and 800 μg sublingual or vaginal misoprostol 24 hours after 200 mg mifepristone for noninferiority regarding efficacy in achieving complete abortion for pregnancy termination up to 63 days of gestation.

Design  Placebo-controlled, randomised, noninferiority factorial trial, stratified by centre and length of gestation. Misoprostol 400 or 800 μg, administered either sublingually or vaginally, with follow up after 2 and 6 weeks.

Setting  Fifteen obstetrics/gynaecology departments in ten countries.

Population  Pregnant women (n = 3005) up to 63 days of gestation requesting medical abortion.

Methods  Two-sided 95% CI for differences in failure of complete abortion and continuing pregnancy, with a 3% noninferiority margin, were calculated. Proportions of women with adverse effects were recorded.

Outcome measures  Complete abortion without surgical intervention (main); continuing live pregnancies, induction-to-abortion interval, adverse effects, women’s perceptions (secondary).

Results  Efficacy outcomes analysed for 2962 women (98.6%): 90.5% had complete abortion after 400 μg misoprostol, 94.2% after 800 μg. Noninferiority of 400 μg misoprostol was not demonstrated for failure of complete abortion (difference: 3.7%; 95% CI 1.8–5.6%). The 400-μg dose showed higher risk of incomplete abortion (P < 0.01) and continuing pregnancy (P < 0.01) than 800 μg. Vaginal and sublingual routes had similar risks of failure to achieve complete abortion (P = 0.47, difference in sublingual minus vaginal −0.7%, 95% CI −2.6–1.2%). A similar pattern was observed for continuing pregnancies (P = 0.21). Fewer women reported adverse effects with vaginal than sublingual administration and with the 400-μg dose than the 800-μg dose. Of the women, 94% were satisfied or highly satisfied with the regimens, 53% preferred the sublingual route and 47% preferred the vaginal route.

Conclusions  A 400-μg dose of misoprostol should not replace the 800-μg dose when administered 24 hours after 200 mg mifepristone for inducing abortion in pregnancies up to 63 days. Sublingual and vaginal misoprostol have similar efficacy, but vaginal administration is associated with a lower frequency of adverse effects.