Pharmacodynamic Activity

The anti-progestational activity of mifepristone results from competitive interaction with progesterone at progesterone-receptor sites. Based on studies with various oral doses in several animal species (mouse, rat, rabbit and monkey), the compound inhibits the activity of endogenous or exogenous progesterone. The termination of pregnancy results.

Doses of 1 mg/kg or greater of mifepristone have been shown to antagonize the endometrial and myometrial effects of progesterone in women. During pregnancy, the compound sensitizes the myometrium to the contraction-inducing activity of prostaglandins.

Mifepristone also exhibits antiglucocorticoid and weak antiandrogenic activity. The activity of the glucocorticoid dexamethasone in rats was inhibited following doses of 10 to 25 mg/kg of mifepristone. Doses of 4.5 mg/kg or greater in human beings resulted in a compensatory elevation of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol. Antiandrogenic activity was observed in rats following repeated administration of doses from 10 to 100 mg/kg.

Pharmacokinetics and Metabolism


Following oral administration of a single dose of 600 mg, mifepristone is rapidly absorbed, with a peak plasma concentration of 1.98 mg/l occurring approximately 90 minutes after ingestion. The absolute bioavailability of a 20 mg oral dose is 69%.


Mifepristone is 98% bound to plasma proteins, albumin and α 1-acid glycoprotein. Binding to the latter protein is saturable, and the drug displays nonlinear kinetics with respect to plasma concentration and clearance. Following a distribution phase, elimination of mifepristone is slow at first (50% eliminated between 12 and 72 hours) and then becomes more rapid with a terminal elimination half-life of 18 hours.


Metabolism of mifepristone is primarily via pathways involving N-demethylation and terminal hydroxylation of the 17-propynyl chain. In vitro studies have shown that CYP450 3A4 is primarily responsible for the metabolism. The three major metabolites identified in humans are: (1) RU 42 633, the most widely found in plasma, is the N-monodemethylated metabolite; (2) RU 42 848, which results from the loss of two methyl groups from the 4-dimethylaminophenyl in position 11β; and (3) RU 42 698, which results from terminal hydroxylation of the 17-propynyl chain.


By 11 days after a 600 mg dose of tritiated compound, 83% of the drug has been accounted for by the feces and 9% by the urine. Serum levels are undetectable by 11 days.

Special Populations

The effects of age, hepatic disease and renal disease on the safety, efficacy and pharmacokinetics of mifepristone have not been investigated.

Clinical Studies

Safety and efficacy data from the U.S. clinical trials and from two French trials of mifepristone are reported below. The U.S. trials provide safety data on 859 women and efficacy data on 827 women with gestation durations of 49 days or less (dated from the first day of the last menstrual period). In the two French clinical trials, safety evaluable data are available for 1800 women, while efficacy information is available for 1681 of these women. Success was defined as the complete expulsion of the products of conception without the need for surgical intervention. The overall rates of success and failure, shown by reason for failure, for the U.S. and French studies appear in Table 1.

In the U.S. trials, 92.1% of the 827 subjects had a complete medical abortion, as shown in Table 1. In 52 women (6.3%) expulsion occurred within two days, and resulted from the action of mifepristone (600 mg) alone, unaided by misoprostol, an analog of prostaglandin E1. All other women without an apparent expulsion took a 400 μg dose of misoprostol two days after taking mifepristone. Many women (44.1%) in the U.S. trials expelled the products of conception within four hours after taking misoprostol and 62.8% experienced expulsion within 24 hours after the misoprostol administration. There were 65 women (7.9%) who received surgical interventions: 13 (1.6%) were medically indicated interventions during the study period, mostly for excessive bleeding; five (0.6%) interventions occurred at the patient's request; 39 women (4.7%) had incomplete abortions at the end of the study protocol; and eight (1.0%) had ongoing pregnancies at the end of the study protocol.

Women who participated in the U.S. trials reflect the racial and ethnic composition of American women. The majority of women (71.4%) were Caucasian, while 11.3% were African American, 10.9% were East Asian, and 4.7% were Hispanic. A small percentage (1.7%) belonged to other racial or ethnic groups. Women aged 18 to 45 were enrolled in the trials. Nearly two-thirds (66.0%) of the women were under 30 years old with a mean age of 27 years.

In the French trials, complete medical abortion occurred in 95.5% of the 1681 subjects, as shown in Table 1. In 89 women (5.3%), complete abortion occurred within two days of taking mifepristone (600 mg). About half of the women (50.3%) in the French trials expelled the products of conception during the first four hours immediately following administration of misoprostol and 72.3% experienced expulsion within 24 hours after taking misoprostol. In total, 4.5% of women in the French trials ultimately received surgical intervention for excessive bleeding, incomplete abortions, or ongoing pregnancies at the end of the protocol.

Table 1: Outcome Following Treatment with Mifepristone and Misoprostol in the U.S. and French Trials

  U.S. Trials French Trials
  N % N %
Complete medical abortion 762 92.1 1605 95.5
Timing of expulsion
  Before second visit 52 (6.3) 89 (5.3)
  During second visit
    –less than 4 hrs after misoprostol 365 (44.1) 846 (50.3)
  After second visit
    –greater than 4 hrs but less than 24 hrs after misoprostol 155 (18.7) 370 (22.0)
    –greater than 24 hrs after misoprostol 68 (8.2) 145 (8.6)
Time of expulsion unknown 122 (14.8) 155 (9.2)
Surgical intervention 65 7.9 76 4.5
 Reason for surgery        
  Medically necessary interventions during the study period 13 (1.6) NA (NA)
    Patient request 5 (0.6) NA (NA)
    Treatment of bleeding during study NA (NA) 6 (0.3)
    Incomplete expulsion at study end 39 (4.7) 48 (2.9)
   Ongoing pregnancy at study end 8 (1.0) 22 (1.3)
Total 827 100 1681 100

Note: Mifepristone 600 mg oral was administered on Day 1, misoprostol 400 μg oral was given on Day 3 (second visit).

Last reviewed on RxList: 6/27/2008
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.


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