Pharmacists in Waterloo Region could be handing out abortion drug RU-486 as early as next year according to Linepharma International Limited, the company that manufactures the pill.

After a review process that lasted more than two years, Health Canada announced on Thursday that it had approved the drug for prescription use. 

"It reduces the barriers for women to access their reproductive choices," Lyndsey Butcher, executive director at Planned Parenthood Waterloo Region, told CBC. 

Until now, Butcher said women in the region have had two abortion options. They could either have a surgical abortion at the clinic in Kitchener, or they could go to Toronto for a medicated abortion. 

"That was a real barrier for women," she said, "because, when you have a medication abortion, you need to have a follow up afterwards. So, it required two trips to Toronto for them to access abortion there."

Recommended by the World Health Organization

Butcher said RU-486 has been available for about 25 years in European countries such as France, and also in Britain. 

"It's unclear to us why...we're decades behind the rest of the world," she said. "This type of abortion is 98 per cent effective. It's actually recommended as the most effective kind of abortion by the World Health Organization."

The drug—which is actually a two-drug combination of mifepristone and misoprostol—works by essentially inducing a miscarriage. 

First, a woman will take mifepristone, which blocks the production of progesterone, a hormone that prepares the uterine lining for pregnancy. Then, a day or two later, she will take misoprostol, which causes contractions. 

"Normally, the miscarriage happens within the first 24 hours after taking the medication," Butcher said, "but there can be some bleeding and spotting that lasts about nine to 16 days."

She says most women can return to their normal routines after a day or two.