Morning-after pills find fewer takers

Published: Nov 29, 2010, 06:25 IST | Priyanka Vora |

Demand drops by nearly 50 per cent; experts attribute it to ban on advertising, side effects

Demand drops by nearly 50 per cent; experts attribute it to ban on advertising, side effects

EMERGENCY contraceptive pills, demand for which had seen a major surge in 2007, seem to have lost their sheen for Indian consumers.

Experts attribute the staggering nearly 50-per cent drop to the ban on advertising and increased awareness of the pills' side effects.

"Sales of morning-after pills have been halved.


While the demand for emergency contraceptive pills is on the wane, demand for condoms has seen a nearly 30 per cent increase, say chemists

It must be because of the recent ban on advertisements of such products and apprehensions about the pills' side effects, which are being talked about a lot now," said Prasad Danave, general secretary, Retail and Dispensing Chemists' Association of 45,800 chemists across the state.

It isn't just the retail sales which have been affected. Out of all the temporary contraceptives offered by the BMC setup, which also include oral contraceptive pills, condoms and intra-uterine devices, emergency contraceptive pills are seeing the least demand.

The state health department had received 1lakh pills in the year 2009, but only 7,000 were used across the state.

Keeping this in mind, the Centre sent only 25,000 pills this year, which, too, are lying unused. The stock available with the state has an expiry period of three years.

Dr Asha Advani, special officer, family welfare unit, BMC, said, "We have sufficient stock available with the department but we aren't getting much demand for the pills from our centres (hospitals and health posts)."

"This may also be because people prefer to buy them directly from the chemist shops instead of coming to us."

Rise and fall

The major reason for the pills' popularity was that women didn't have to depend on their male partners and could free themselves from anxiety after unprotected sex.

However, the popularity dropped when the grave side effects of the pill became well-known.

"The number of people coming to me because of suffering side effects from popping such pills has also gone down," said Gynecologist Nandita Palshetkar

" Girls who take the pills on a regular basis suffer from side effects like nausea and irregular bleeding. They are otherwise safe for emergency use," the gynecologist futher elaborated.

Healthcare professionals, however, are not too upset at the reduced use of emergency contraceptive pills.

Happy fallouts

"We want to advocate permanent methods of contraception like no-scalpel vasectomies which are safer and whose success rates are higher than these emergency pills," said Advani.

The increase in condom sales could also be a fallout of the dip in demand for the pills.

"While the demand for pills is decreasing, there has been a nearly 30 per cent increase in demand for condoms," said Damji Palan, president, Retail & Dispensing Chemists Association, said.

"Even the BMC setup faced a condom shortage recently due to a sudden surge in demand. The civic body asked for six lakh pieces from the central government, which were subsequently distributed."

Emergency only

"Emergency contraceptive pills, as the name suggests, are to be used only in emergency and not as the primary method of contraception."

"When the pills had come into the market, we had even set up a helpline to make people aware of this.
 
For those who indulge in an unplanned, unprotected sexual encounter, these pills are better then an abortion but I have had patients come to me for abortions even after popping these pills," said Dr Rishma Pai, consultant gynecologist, Jaslok Hospital.

Did you know?
In July, the Drug Controller General of India asked all the promoters of over-the-counter oral contraceptive pills to stop advertising them on mass media, like television.

Figure Trigger

72
The number of hours from the time of unprotected sex within which these pills are supposed to be popped in order for them to be effective

Rs 170
The approximate cost of an emergency contraceptive pill

Rs 95 crore
The cost at which Piramal Healthcare bought the rights for popular brand I-pill from Cipla

250
The percentage increase in sales of emergency contraceptive pills in 2009

Side effects
Nausea
Vomiting
Headaches
Unexpected bleeding
Next period may come early or late

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