There is a worrying shortage of medical abortion drugs across fives states in the country, finds a survey by the Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India (FRHSI).
The study was conducted by FRHSI among 1500 chemists in six states, which indicated an overwhelming shortage of medical abortion drugs in five out of the six states surveyed.
As per the survey, there was abysmal stocking in Madhya Pradesh (6.5 pc), Punjab (1.0 pc), Tamil Nadu (2.0 pc), Haryana (2.0 pc), and Delhi (34.0 pc).
The only state that seems to be better is Assam (69.6 pc).
|S.No.||State||% of chemists stocking MA Drugs|
The non-stocking of medical abortion drugs seems to be linked with over-regulation by drug control authorities.
About 79 pc of chemists no longer stock medical abortion drugs to avoid legal issues and excessive documentation requirements.
The survey found that 54.8 pc of chemists reported that medical abortion drugs are overregulated as compared to other drugs.
Even in Assam, which has the highest stocking percentage of the drugs, 58 pc chemists reported overregulation of abortion drugs.
State-wise, regulatory/legal barriers continue to be the major reason for not stocking of the drugs, with 63 pc chemists in Haryana, 40 pc in Madhya Pradesh, 74 pc in Punjab and 79 pc in Tamil Nadu reporting so.
"Medical Abortion has increasingly become the preferred method to terminate a pregnancy in India," said FRHSI Chief Executive Officer VS Chandrashekar.
"The non-availability of drugs is threatening women's access to safe abortion," Chandrashekar, who is also the Pratigya Campaign Advisory Group member, further added.
"Evidence shows medical abortion drugs are a safe and effective means to terminate a pregnancy," he further said.
"Their non-availability can potentially reverse the gains made by the country in reducing unsafe abortions, maternal mortality and morbidity," Chandrashekar further said.
While the purpose of the study was to verify the availability of MA drugs, the findings also reveal that Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECP) are not being stocked by chemists in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Only 3 pc of the chemists surveyed in the state reported stocking ECPs and 90 pc not stocking shared that the pills are banned in the state.
Emergency Contraceptive Pills are non-prescription drugs and are also stocked and distributed by ASHAs under the National Family Planning Program.
Not allowing chemists to stock ECP denies women of Tamil Nadu a safe and easy to use contraceptive choice.
The primary reason for non-availability of MA drugs seems to be the incorrect understanding that MA combi packs can be used for gender-biased sex selection among regulatory officials.
MA combi pack is indicated for use only up to nine weeks while ultrasound can detect the sex of the fetus at 13-14 weeks gestation.
Hearteningly chemists do not seem to share this misconception, only about 10 pc chemists across the study states reported that MA drugs can be used for sex-selective termination of pregnancy.
In Tamil Nadu however, 36 pc have this misunderstanding.
“In these unprecedented times when the movement of people is restricted and access to medical facilities is limited, there is an urgent need to ensure easy availability of medical abortion drugs at pharmacies by removing unnecessary barriers on their sale," said Dr Rashmi Ardey, Clinical Services Director, FRHSI.
"The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare should clarify that medical abortion drugs which are approved for use up to nine weeks in India cannot be used for sex-selective termination of pregnancy," she added.
"This will allow women to seek medical support and access drugs with a prescription," she further said.
The study recommends addressing misconceptions regarding MA and Gender-Biased Sex-Selection; harmonising Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation approvals/requirements and the MTP Act; amending MTP Rules to allow MBBS Doctors to prescribe MA Drugs increasing investments in Safe Abortion Communication through and providing support to women who access MA Drugs by setting up toll-free helpline numbers.
Link of the detailed study: https://bit.ly/2DTR6Sb
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