‘The tablet given under the WIFS programme is safe and efficacious’

The Centre on Monday claimed that adverse effects reported by children after consuming iron folic tablets under the Weekly Iron Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) programme were ‘expected’ and, rather ‘less than expected’. However, “it is safe and efficacious,” it said.

“Scientific evidence globally suggests 5-15 per cent do report adverse effects after consumption of iron folic tablets, including black stools, vomiting and nausea accompanied with a feeling of discomfort, constipation and diarrhoea as well,” Anuradha Gupta, Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), said. “It is less than one per cent in India which is acceptable.”

“The complaints were common like pregnant women have when they are put on iron folic tablets. Of the 34 lakh children, both boys and girls, who were given tablets, only 150 in Solapur complained of adverse effects and 200 cases were reported from Delhi as against 18 lakh children who consumed these tablets,” Ms. Gupta said.

Setting at rest concerns being raised about the quality of tablets, Dr. Ramji, Professor of Paediatrics at Maulana Azad Medical College, said the tablets were manufactured in June this year and could be consumed until 2015 and the same batch of tablets was sent to all States but adverse effects were reported only from these two places.

“Not only children but teachers, too, reported of uneasiness. However, we are investigating why it happened in these two clusters only,” he said. In Delhi, 15 lakh children were administered tablets in schools and three lakh in anganwadi centres. “The side effects are self-limiting and would be reduced on regular consumption of tablets,” Dr. Ramji explained.

Calling for more sensitisation of teachers and those involved with administering tablets, Ms. Anuradha Gupta said they had been trained and sensitised about the possible effects but would be further counselled. “The benefits of the tablets outweigh the transitory adverse impacts,” she said.

India has a very high prevalence of adolescent anaemia. About 56 per cent girls and 30 per cent boys suffer from anaemia, occurring primarily due to deficiency of essential micronutrients. As high as 50 per cent of nutritional deficiency is related to iron deficiency anaemia. It results in poor physical growth, reduced school performance, diminished concentration in daily tasks thus impacting work capacity.