SEARLE's "DEAR DOCTOR" Letter

In August, 2000, the manufacturer, Searle, sent the letter below to every physician in the country, warning them not to use Cytotec to induce labor.

 August 23, 2000


Re:  Cytotec® (misoprostol)


IMPORTANT DRUG WARNING CONCERNING UNAPPROVED USE OF INTRAVAGINAL OR ORAL MISOPROSTOL IN PREGNANT WOMEN FOR INDUCTION OF LABOR OR ABORTION


Dear Health Care Provider:


     The purpose of this letter is to remind you that Cytotec administration by any route is contraindicated in women who are pregnant because it can cause abortion. Cytotec is not approved for the induction of labor or abortion.


     Cytotec is indicated for the prevention of NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin)-induced gastric ulcers in patients at high risk of complications from gastric ulcer, e.g., the elderly and patients with concomitant debilitating disease, as well as patients at high risk of developing gastric ulceration, such as patients with a history of ulcer.


     The uterotonic effect of Cytotec is an inherent property of prostaglandin E1(PGE1), of which Cytotec is stable, orally active, synthetic analog. Searle has become aware of some instances where Cytotec, outside of its approved indication, was used as a cervical ripening agent prior to termination of pregnancy, or for induction of labor, in spite of the specific contraindications to its use during pregnancy.


     Serious adverse events reported following off-label use of Cytotec in pregnant women include maternal or fetal death; uterine hyperstimulation, rupture or perforation requiring uterine surgical repair, hysterectomy or salpingo-oophorectomy; amniotic fluid embolism; severe vaginal bleeding, retained placenta, shock, fetal bradycardia and pelvic pain.


     Searle has not conducted research concerning the use of Cytotec for cervical ripening prior to termination of pregnancy or for induction of labor, nor does Searle intend to study or support these uses. Therefore, Searle is unable to provide complete risk information for Cytotec when it is used for such purposes. In addition to the known and unknown acute risks to the mother and fetus, the effect of Cytotec on the later growth, development and functional maturation of the child when Cytotec is used for induction of labor or cervical ripening has not been established.


      Searle promotes the use of Cytotec only for its approved indication. Please read the enclosed updated complete Prescribing Information for Cytotec.

Further information may be obtained by calling 1-800-323-4204.

Michael Cullen, MD
Medical Director, U.S.
Searle

5200 Old Orchard Road
Skokie, Illinois, 60077
Phone: (847) 982-7000
Fax: (847) 470-1480From: http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/safety/2000/cytote.htm


Attorney's Comment: This was smart lawyering by Searle! By explicitly warning doctors that  Cytotec should not be used to induce labor, Searle insulated itself from legal responsibility for the bad outcomes that may occur. It now becomes the doctor's or midwife's responsibility for using the product in a way the manufacturer specfically recommended against. That is why we do not see drug-liability cases against the manufacturer, but lots of medical malpractice cases against the prescribers who went against Searle's explicit instructions, "Don't do it!"