Quinacrine Fact Sheet

Date Published: July 17, 2006

Q. What is quinacrine?

A. Quinacrine is a form of chemical sterilization for women. It is inserted in pellet form into the uterus. There it dissolves, traveling into the Fallopian tubes, causing scarring. The resulting scar tissue blocks the tubes, causing irreversible sterilization.

Q. What is the background on quinacrine?

A. Originally developed as an anti-malarial treatment, quinacrine is now distributed as a method of sterilization. Quinacrine's primary distributors are the North Carolina-based Center for Research on Population and Security, headed by Stephen Mumford; and the International Federation for Family Health, headed by Elton Kessel. Mumford and Kessel have distributed quinacrine in 19 countries around the world, including Bangladesh, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, the Philippines, Venezuela, Vietnam, the United States, and possibly in Brazil, Guatemala, Thailand, Malaysia and Romania.

Q. Does quinacrine have any adverse effects?

A. Proper animal studies have not been conducted on quinacrine to rule out any adverse effects of using it for sterilization. However, quinacrine is a known mutagen (a substance capable of noticeably increasing the frequency of cell mutation), and preliminary laboratory studies point to potential risks of cancer, birth defects, and toxicity. In addition, these tests suggest that quinacrine may be less effective than surgical sterilization, and may increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recommended against further human trials of quinacrine sterilization until further animal studies are conducted. At the present time, no regulatory body currently supports the use of quinacrine as a sterilant.

Q. Is quinacrine still used as a sterilant, although it does not receive support from any regulatory body?

A. Because of controversy over the possible adverse effects, quinacrine was recently banned in India and Chile. However, Kessel and Mumford continue to distribute the drug. In an interview from summer 1997, Mumford reported that he is preparing to supply quinacrine to clinicians in the United States who have agreed to use it in their practice. Further, Kessel stated that official government approval is "desirable but not necessary" in the continued use of quinacrine as a sterilant. With private funding from such organizations as the Turner Foundation and Leland Fykes Foundation, Mumford and Kessel have been distributing quinacrine for free to researchers, clinicians, and government health agencies worldwide. (Note that the Turner Foundation no longer funds quinacrine research.) Other notable promoters of quinacrine include Sarah G. Epstein and Donald Collins, both board members of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Q. If quinacrine is not approved by the FDA for use as a form of sterilization, how can it still be given to women in the US?

A. Quinacrine is an approved anti-malarial treatment. Since the FDA permits approved drugs to be used "off label"-that is, for uses other than the ones for which they were originally licensed-doctors can prescribe quinacrine for whatever purposes they wish.

Q. Why are Mumford and Kessel distributing quinacrine?

A. Mumford and Kessel believe that quinacrine is a cost-effective way to reduce population growth, since the quinacrine needed for sterilization costs less than a dollar. They claim they are saving women's lives by preventing unwanted pregnancies in countries where there is a high risk of dying from childbirth complications.

Mumford has an explicit anti-immigration agenda. "'This explosion in human numbers, which after 2050 will come entirely from immigrants and the offspring of immigrants, will dominate our lives. There will be chaos and anarchy.' says Mr. Mumford, who relies in part on anti-immigrant forces in the US for financial backing." (The Wall Street Journal, June 18, 1998).

Q. How can I learn more about quinacrine?

A. Information packets on quinacrine are available from the Committee on Women, Population and the Environment at the address below. Packets include recent articles on quinacrine.

Q. What can I do to stop the use of quinacrine as a sterilant?

A. Please contact us as soon as possible so that we can continue to monitor the distribution of quinacrine. Report any use of quinacrine in your community to: