Thursday July 29, 2010

Doctors in India Worried Over Abuse of ‘Morning-After’ Pill

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

NEW DELHI, July 29, 2010 ( – Health-care workers and government officials in India are concerned over the routine and indiscriminate use of emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs), commonly called the “morning-after” pill.

The pills, which have a heavy dose of the same hormones found in regular oral contraceptive pills, are freely available over the counter in India.

Producers of the two most popular brands in India, called “I-pill” and “Unwanted 72,” have been promoting the pills as a “primary contraceptive” method rather than an “emergency measure,” and are targeting their ads at teenagers and young unmarried women.

More than 8.2 million ECPs were sold in 2009, an increase of 250 percent from the previous year, according to an AFP report.

As a result the Indian government has banned ads which portray the dangerous medication, which can act as an abortifacient, as safe and effective “pregnancy prevention.”

“Concerns were being raised that women were popping the pills as a means to be free of tension after unprotected sex,” the head of India’s drug control department, Surinder Singh, told the Times of India.

“Women also weren’t being told that the pill should be taken as an emergency measure, not a routine one,” Singh said.

“It’s all very well to say people are becoming sexually liberal, but who’s going to talk about the long term effects of this quick solution?” Radhika Chandiramani, a clinical psychologist, told AFP.

“The manufacturers don’t mention it in their media campaigns. Parents and teachers don’t teach children about sex, STDs, and contraceptives. So who is going to tell these kids that these pills are not sweets?” Chandiramani said.

Anuradha Kapoor, a gynaecologist at Delhi’s Max Healthcare hospital, added that the danger associated with use of the drug is concealed from the teenagers who most misuse the pills.

“There is a lot of misuse. You are supposed to take it once in so many months, and no one tells you that,” Kapoor said. “A lot of teenagers are taking it like a daily contraceptive.”

The serious health risks, such as breast, ovarian and uterine cancer, as well as ectopic pregnancies, to women who use this drug, either occasionally or excessively, are compounded by recent admissions that the pill has proven to be less effective than proponents had anticipated.

Authors Elizabeth Westley, Francine Coeytaux and Elisa Wells, in the journal Contraception, said that the morning-after pill “is not as effective in reducing unwanted pregnancy rates at a population level as we once hoped.”

The authors admitted that the promised effectiveness of Emergency Contraception (EC) was greatly exaggerated in a bid to gain lucrative financial support for the method in anticipation of huge profits for pharmaceutical companies.

“Our expectations for EC’s effectiveness were biased upwards by an early estimate that expanding access to emergency contraception could dramatically reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy and subsequent abortion … We realize that this was an overly optimistic calculation…”

See related LSN articles:

Morning-After Pill Proving To Be Ineffective and Abused

Canadian Physicians Group Warns of Dangers of “Morning After Pill”


Confirms critics’ predictions that excessive use of the morning after pill would become common