Other States

Just 1.2% chemists stock abortion pills in Maharashtra: study

Pharmacists cite legal hassles as reason; experts say lack of access to safe abortions a worry

A mere 1.2% chemists in Maharashtra — three of the 252 reviewed in five cities — stock medical abortion (MA) pills, a study has found.

The study covered 1,008 chemists in Maharashtra, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

Medical abortion is approved up to nine weeks of gestation and has emerged as the most preferred method of abortion in India. The pills come in a combination pack of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol.

“The fact that a large number of chemists are not stocking the pills is extremely worrisome,” said Dr. Kalpana Apte, member of the technical advisory group of Pratigya Campaign for Gender Equality and Safe Abortion, which carried out the study. It found that legal and regulatory issues were the common concerns for chemists not stocking the pills.

Dr. Apte, who is also the chief executive officer of the Family Planning Association of India, said a major crackdown in the State by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) a few years ago has played a role in chemists’ reluctance to stock the pills. “There is a requirement of a lot of paperwork from the chemists. There is a general misconception that the medication can be misused for sex-selective abortions. But this is not correct. The sex of the foetus cannot be detected through ultrasound before 13 to 14 weeks, and medical abortion pills are indicated only up to nine weeks,” Dr. Apte said.

The study said that the percentage of retail chemists highlighting legal issues was the highest in Maharashtra at 90.4%, followed by Rajasthan at 76.6%, where the drug authorities have been regulating sales of the drugs to address sex selection.

Dr. A.L. Sharada, director of Population First, a partner of the Pratigya Campaign, said abortion pills are extremely safe to use under proper medical supervision. “Limiting their access leads to women opting for unsafe abortion,” Dr. Sharada said.

Experts say lack of access to medical abortion also leads to mental agony and delay in abortions. The study has highlighted the need to address misconceptions about medical abortions and gender-biased sex selection among drug regulatory authorities, improve knowledge of chemists on abortion and medical abortion drugs, increase investments in safe abortion communication through information, education and communication, and media outreach.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 8:52:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/just-12-chemists-stock-abortion-pills-in-state-study/article29304187.ece

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