With more and more young girls “falling prey” to emergency contraceptive pills due to an advertising blitz,leading gynaecologists have warned that frequent use of such drugs may lead to rise in STD cases and favoured the idea of making them prescription drugs.
“Morning-after-pills are emergency contraceptives but the way they are being presented in the advertisements,more and more women in the age group of 20 to 35 are falling prey to them,assuming it the easiest way to avoid pregnancy,” said Dr
Sudha Shalahan,HoD,Safdurjung Hospital.
Asking the media to play a greater role in spreading awareness against the overuse of such drugs,Dr Shalahan said,
“Frequent use of the emergency pills is not only dangerous for young women but it is also making them vulnerable to sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs) like HIV/AIDS”.
Dr Pushpa,HoD of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital,said,”Earlier,due to ethical issues and social stigma attached to getting pregnant before marriage,girls used to avoid unprotected intercourse but now even teenagers think it is easy and casual to consume a pill and prevent pregnancy. Thus these drugs should be made prescription medicine”.
Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) Surinder Singh had recently said that a committee will be set up to examine whether emergency contraceptive pills,now sold over-the-counter (OTC),should be reclassified as “prescription drugs”.
“In India,there is not enough awareness on emergency contraceptives,so the situation needs to be tackled carefully. In most countries emergency contraceptives are sold OTC but this may not be feasible for us,” Singh said.
Dr Pushpa said,”Few days back a girl came to meet me who has taken 30 I-pills in the past two months. This has happened only due to easy availability of such drugs and glossy ads on TV channels which push the morning-after-pills as a means to be “tension-free” after sex.
Describing the side effects of the drug,Dr Shalahan said,”These pills have lots of side effects like persistent irritation,delayed menstruation,heavy bleeding,spotting and vomiting as they contain too much hormone so it should be sold on doctors’ advice”.
Agreeing with her,Dr Chandra Mansukhani of Sir Gangaram Hospital emphasised that emergency pills were not recommended as replacement for regular birth control pills.
“It should be taken only in emergency situations or contraceptive failures,and only with the prescription of a gynaecologist or a physician,” she said.
However,Amar Lulla,Joint MD of Cipla the makers of I-pill,has opposed any such move,saying “if these pills are made prescribed drug then it will be against the basic concept of emergency contraceptives”.
“Worldwide these drugs are sold OTC and even WHO has allowed it but if the DGCI will take any such move than what can we do,” Lula said.
Supporting him,Dr Asha Sharma,HoD of Rockland Hospital,said pills should be sold over-the-counter as “every woman has the right over her sexuality and fertility”.
“We all want to control the population of our country and these drugs are a big help in this direction,” she said.