When Sanchita, a Bengaluru-based professional who moved to Chennai recently, had approached a local pharmacist for a morning-after pill, she received the shock of her life as the pharmacist casually doled out a concoction of abortifacient drugs.
Gynaecologists in the city claim that the easy availability of abortion pills and the lack of availability of Levonorgestrel (morning-after pill) has led to an alarming rise in medical complications among young women.
After visiting a few pharmacies in the city, DT Next found that though the non-availability of emergency contraceptive pills was common across the State, abortion pills were readily available. Though morning-after pills are comparatively safer than abortion pills, majority of the pharmacists in the city say that they do not have a stock of them as they have been instructed by the Drugs Control Authority to not allow sale of emergency contraceptives on ‘moral grounds’. However, a few claimed that the order can be placed to get it from online platforms or other States. This, however, was not available on online platforms here.
“The sale of morning-after pills is not exactly banned but we do not sell them after being instructed by the Drug Control authorities. There are various reasons why the sale of emergency pills was stopped. Overuse and abuse of such drugs can cause serious side-effects. Abortion pills are available after the prescription from a gynaecologist,” said S Ramachandran, President of Tamil Nadu Chemists’ and Druggists’ Association.
However, senior officials of the Drug Control Authority claim that the ban can only be imposed by the Centre and the State government has not banned Levonorgestrel. Yet, abortion pills can be obtained over the counter.
Medicos and health experts say that the availability of abortifacient drugs over-the-counter without the prescription has become common and has increased the misuse of these drugs leading to more number of abortion related life-threatening complications.
“The abortifacient drugs are available over the counter and can be bought easily by anyone and often substituted for the morning-after pill even without a prescription. These drugs may or may not be affective in abortion as the pregnancy may be inside the uterus or outside and only proper screening can help to examine it. People take these drugs without consultation which can lead to excessive bleeding, incomplete miscarriage, missed abortion and can cause immediate low blood pressure and even be life-threatening for a pregnant person,” said Dr Premalatha, consultant gynaecologist, Fortis Malar Hospital.
Morning-after pills have many side effects
Morning-after pills contain a hormone levonorgestrel that prevents pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex or birth control failure and is 89% effective. There are minor side effects associated with morning after pills including stomach ache, breast pain, vomiting, changes in menstrual cycle and tiredness