Almost 70 per cent buyers of abortion drugs in India are married men and unsafe abortions contribute to eight per cent maternal deaths in the country, says data available with Population Services International (PSI), a global health organisation.
Health officials and doctors have now come together to train the “first point of contact for buyers” – the pharmacists – to avoid unsafe abortions.
“Dispensing the correct dose, drug and advising patients on how to use the drug, counselling and referral to doctors is an essential part of the pharmacist’s work and we through our programme are reinforcing this,” said Shankar Narayanan, senior director, programme, PSI. The organisation is running the programme with Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI).
The programme has already trained 12,023 pharmacists on medical abortion dispensing practices.
“What we observed is that education of pharmacies on correct dispensing and appropriate counselling resulted in responsible use of medical abortion drugs, thus reducing the risk of negative health impacts,’’ said FOGSI president Prakash Trivedi.
He added that many women who are unable or unwilling to seek care from trained providers seek medicines from pharmacists, and this puts the latter in an important position.
India's Health Index
|Unsafe abortions contribute to 8% of maternal deaths
|Total fertility rate stands at 2.8%
|Only 47% of currrently married women use any form of modern contraception
|IUD prevalance rate has remained low at 2%; use is higher in urban areas at 2.9%
|Total unmet need of family planning among currently married women in 21% including 7.9% birth spacing need and 13.4% birth limiting need
“Thus, there is need to devise approaches that successfully improve pharmacists' dispensing behaviour. During our campaign, we approached pharmacists with the issue. We told them how important their role is in supporting women’s health and that they had a responsibility to be aware of good counselling practices,” said Dr. Trivedi.
Under the programme, pharmacists are familiarised with correct use, adverse events and the need to counsel a client to seek prescribed medicines and consult a gynaecologist for any complication.
Since 2009, FOGSI and PSI have joined hands to advocate support for improving maternal health through use of long-acting contraceptives and by increasing access to safe abortions.
“Adoption of modern contractive methods will require increased efforts from private and public sector, while respecting the right of the individual to voluntarism and informed choice. We remain committed to working closely with the government and other stakeholders to act as a market facilitator so that women of reproductive age in India can access high quality family planning choice without financial hardship,” said Mr. Pritpal Marjara, managing director, PSI. He added that PSI is also exploring introducing new contraceptives to increase the basket of choice.