The Drug Controller of India has asked manufacturers of the Emergency Contraception (EC) pill to modify their advertisements that have suddenly burst on the television channels. The advertisements show a woman expressing fear of pregnancy after unprotected sex, and her friend advises her to take the EC pill. Both women are then seen walking hand in hand with their male partners — all television stars — saying they were now “tension free.”

Medical practitioners, who participated in the National Consensus on Rational Use of Emergency Contraception in India here on Monday, while appreciating the “positive impact” of the ads in generating awareness, suggested that they carry a word of caution about the “emergency use.” “The EC pill is not a substitute for regular methods of contraception. It should not be conveyed that you could go in for unprotected sex because you have access to EC pill. Rather, it should be that because you’ve had unprotected sex, you have the option of an EC pill to prevent pregnancy. Repeated use of the EC pill as a method of contraception should be discouraged,” said Suneeta Mittal, chief coordinator, Consultation and Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences. The doctors wanted this aspect highlighted in the ad campaigns.

They stressed that the EC pill was not a protection against reproductive tract infections, sexually-transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. Also, it was not to be used as an abortion pill. At the same time, they did not want television ads to “stigmatise” abortion. Depending upon when the EC pill is taken during the menstrual cycle, it could prevent or delay egg formation, interfere with fertilisation to stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. It should be taken within five days of unprotected sex. However, the EC pill is not effective once pregnancy is already there, say the doctors.

Doctors optimistic

While there is no data on how many pregnancies have been prevented and abortions averted, with the EC pill now being sold across the counter, doctors are optimistic about its positive impact in terms of access despite the side-effects of nausea, headache, and irregular or heavy menstrual cycle.

“At least with the access to the EC pill, there is awareness of using a contraception method. This brings more women to the doctors and they are advised about the regular methods of contraception,” said Kiran Ambwani from the Department of Family Welfare, who chaired the last session.

The efficacy of the pill was reported to be more than 95 per cent and it was introduced after the AIIMS-WHO conducted multicentric trials.

Joint Drug Controller A.B. Ramteke said that at the behest of the Health and Family Welfare Ministry, two manufacturing companies were asked to modify the ads so that “they were not misleading and did not promote misuse of the EC pill. We have asked them to frame the ads in suitable language and now, the recommendations of this consultation should also be incorporated.”

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