History of Istar

ISTAR Ltd was incorporated in New Zealand as a not-for-profit pharmaceutical company in February 1999. It was formed by five doctors to import Mifegyne® (mifepristone) from France because no established pharmaceutical firm was willing to import.

Istar GoddessThe founding directors were: Dr Diana Edwards, Dr Carol Shand, Dr Margaret Sparrow, Professor Peter Stone, Mr John Tait and in 2007 they were joined by Dr Simon Snook.

All were experienced operating doctors who considered that New Zealand women should have access to medical abortion as an alternative to surgery.

Any profits are used for the benefit of women’s reproductive health.

ISTAR Ltd was named after the Mesopotamian goddess of love, fertility and war. She was also known as the goddess of the night and the light bringer. Star of BabylonHer name has various spellings - Istar or Ishtar and is usually pronounced Ish-tar. One of her symbols was the 8-pointed Star of Babylon


In May 2000 ISTAR Ltd signed an agreement with Exelgyn the French Company which distributes Mifegyne®.

In June 2000 ISTAR Ltd applied to Medsafe, Ministry of Health, for approval of Mifegyne® as a new higher-risk prescription medicine.

The application was approved for four indications:

  1. early medical abortion
  2. priming the cervix before surgical abortion
  3. second trimester medical abortion and
  4. induction of labour for fetal death in utero.

On 30 August 2001 a notice of approval was published in the Gazette. The first import arrived in September 2001 and was first used in Wellington in October 2001 for a second trimester abortion.

The introduction of an early medical abortion service was delayed because of an ambiguity in the law which was not resolved until April 2003 when a High Court judge determined that both drugs (mifepristone followed by a prostaglandin) must be given in a licensed premise. Until this decision Level J Unit in Wellington Hospital was the only clinic offering an early medical abortion service. (See Reference 1.)

Since this time there has been a steady increase in clinics offering early medical abortion throughout New Zealand and Australia. Istar Ltd is the sole supplier of Mifepristone within New Zealand.

In 2008 Istar Ltd formed a relationship with Womancare Global (the marketing arm of IPAS Ltd in the USA) to import and supply MVA equipment within New Zealand.