Cytotec® is the trade name given by pharmaceutical company, Searle, for the drug, Misoprostol (prostaglandin E1.) Originally, Searle was the only manufacturer of Cytotec® in the U.S., but its patent expired recently and now there are several generic versions available using the generic name, Misoprostol.
Misoprostol (the generic name for Cytotec) is the main active ingredient in "the morning-after pill" - RU486 - because it induces contractions and aborts the pregnancy.
Cytotec was discovered and marketed as a drug for stomach ulcers. However, when pregnant women with ulcers took the drug, they unexpectedly went into labor! As a result, the drug came into use "off label" (for a purpose other than the manufacturer recommends) and gained great popularity in the obstetrics community because it is cheap, easy to use, and most of the time, it jump-starts labor quickly. Insurance companies love it, because it is inexpensive.
Cytotec® was not tested in the laboratory to determine its safety before doctors starting using "off label" it to induce labor, and its manufacturer recommended against its use in inducing labor.
Instead, it was tested in real life labor and delivery, with unwitting mothers as the guinea pigs.
In some cases, Cytotec® imposes risks that far outweigh the benefits of a delivery that takes place at a convenient time. What's worse, it is often impossible to predict whether or when those risks will be realized. Other medications that are used to induce labor, such as Pitocin or Cervadil, can rapidly be discontinued if problems develop. But unlike Pitocin or Cervadil, once Cytotec® is given, whether swallowed in a pill form by mouth, or inserted vaginally or rectally, there is no way to stop its action, even if trouble occurs. The reason Cytotec® is used instead of other, safer drugs, is simply that it is cheap and easy. [Click here to view the A.C.O.G statement.]