Quinacrine Update II

Author(s): Judy Norsigian, Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Date Published: July 17, 2006
Source: (Political Environments #3, Winter/Spring 1996)

Quinacrine is a drug which can sterilize a woman essentially by burning (sclerosing) her fallopian tubes. It has not been approved for this use by the drug regulatory authority of any country, but some doctors continue to perform quinacrine sterilizations, largely for poorer women in developing countries. Most international agencies working in the family planning field (for example, the Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception, Family Health International, and the World Health Organization) do not recommend that quinacrine be used at this time even in human clinical trials, let alone in a non-research setting.

Recently, Family Health International carried out four pre-clinical toxicology tests and found quinacrine to be mutagenic in the three in vitro studies. The fourth, an in vivo study, had a negative finding. A mutagenic finding does not necessarily mean that this drug is carcinogenic in humans, but generally accepted research practices would require that further animal studies be done before any testing or use with humans. This, however, would be a fairly expensive proposition for quinacrine, and so far, no organization is planning to do this research.

The most vocal advocates for the quinacrine sterilization procedure have been Stephen Mumford and Dr. Elton Kessel of the Center for Research on Population and Security, a North Carolina-based organization which receives primarily private funds. They have been encouraging greater use of quinacrine in a number of different countries around the world. Recently, through an oversight of the conference organizers, these two individuals participated in the Women's Expo '96 (February 2-4, 1996, in Washington, DC). They personally staffed a booth in the exhibit area and took out an ad in the program book that made insupportable claims (see sidebar).

Women's groups and health care advocates everywhere should protest any further use of quinacrine, especially in the absence of animal studies essential to demonstrate the feasibility of human clinical trials. Women in Chile already are doing this (see excerpt of article by Lezak Shallat). For more information about the quinacrine pellet method of sterilization, contact AVSC, 79 Madison Ave, NY, NY 10017. Also see Marge Berer, "The Quinacrine Controversy One Year On," Reproductive Health Matters, no. 4, November 1994.

At Beijing Too...

(The following were prepared by Betsy Hartmann)

The Center for Research on Population and Security was also present at the Global Forum in Beijing where they promoted quinacrine as a way to improve women's health and reduce maternal mortality. In a classic example of doublespeak, their training video was produced by the "Empowerment Project." Fortunately, a number of women's health advocates were on hand to challenge them.

More quinacrine connections are revealed in the following passage from Odyssey (Fall 1995), a publication of World Learning, Inc. in Brattleboro, Vermont:

"Sally G. Epstein -- former trustee...and internationally honored reproductive rights and family planning activist...attended the [Beijing] conference with her husband Donald Collins, also a population consultant, as a media correspondent. For two weeks prior to the conference, they toured Chinese villages and cities with a group from the Population Institute in Washington, D.C. They met local health service officials to promote the drug quinacrine as an effective, safe and inexpensive sterilization method."

Funding Quinacrine

Quinacrine research is an interesting example of how a small group of population control zealots can bypass international regulatory mechanisms. Their work is made possible by private funding, mainly from the US. In the last issue of Political Environments we noted how the Leland Fikes Foundation has funded the Center for Research on Population and Security. The Turner Foundation also gave them a grant of $40,000 in 1993, according to tax records. If you have more information on who funds quinacrine, please contact CWPE.

Oh, the Lancet!

The prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, has been an apologist for quinacrine research. In the June 10, 1995 issue, the journal published a particularly offensive (and unscientific) piece by an Australian medical student, Sean Duckett, entitled "Oh, Calcutta!" Duckett worked with Dr. B. Mullick, who performs quinacrine insertions in his family planning clinic in the city. The article contains many derogatory comments about Calcutta and uses typical population crisis reasoning to justify medical double standards. One wonders who on the Lancet's editorial board is allowing such material to appear in the journal.