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Government allows sale of emergency contraceptives
September 09, 2005 17:31 IST
Government on Friday allowed sale of emergency contraceptive pills, which can prevent pregnancy in case there is unprotected sexual exposure, as an over-the-counter drug to make it easily available for women.
"The step has been taken to enable women to avoid pregnancy in such situations as unprotected sexual exposure, contraceptive accident or forced sex," Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said while launching the pills.
The pills have been available on medical prescription since 2001. Over 100 countries already have EC pills available as over-the-counter drugs, he said.
Ramadoss said that there was a need for emergency contraception as a lot of women in India die during unsafe abortions and a number of them go through unwanted pregnancies.
D Suneeta Mittal from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, who has been part of consultation on emergency contraceptives, said that EC was also an option in cases when the couple did not have access to contraceptives or there was coercive sex or even rape.
"We have a drug which can prevent fertilisation and conception. It is important for women's reproductive health," she said. Two 0.75 miligram pills of "levonorgestrel" (a kind of hormone which is produced in the body) are taken within three days of sexual exposure, she said, adding that this method can prevent pregnancy in 95 per cent of cases.
However, EC is only a one-time method and is no replacement for regular contraceptive methods such as pills, which have only a one per cent failure rate, she said.
While the cost of one time use of EC pills is Rs 30-35, government wants to bring it down to Rs five through social marketing, Health Secretary P K Hota said.
Mittal said EC pills have been tried on Indian women for over 10 years. While a combination pill of two hormones - progesterone and estrogen - which was earlier used as emergency contraceptive led to nausea in 20 per cent of cases, the current pill has nausea only in five per cent of cases.
The government is following an ABC - Advocacy, Building Capacity of service providers and creating awareness - approach for emergency contraceptives. China has even made ECs available on vending machines.
Mittal said adding that the intention is to widen availability of EC pills in India. However, there was a need to spread awareness on the matter.
A survey had shown that only 40 per cent doctors registered with the Delhi Medical Association were aware of EC. Contraceptive usage is low in India at 48.6 per cent, which results in almost 78 per cent unplanned and 25 per cent unwanted pregnancies. Women resort to unsafe abortions which kill almost 20,000 of them in India.