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Common name for mifepristone, a drug used in the first several weeks of pregnancy for inducing abortion. RU-486 blocks the receptors for progesterone, a hormone necessary for the maintenance of pregnancy. The drug causes the breakdown of the uterine lining, which, along with the embryo, is shed through the vagina. It has been available in France for the termination of early pregnancy since 1988 and was approved for use in the U.S. in 2000. The name RU-486 is derived from the manufacturer Roussel-Uclaf and a serial number.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on RU-486, visit Britannica.com.