The use of emergency contraceptive pills is rising by the day , leading to a lot of medical issues in young girls. But while users are mostly blamed for the abuse of the pill, a recent study has revealed that the delivery system for the pills is itself contributing to the problem.
A study conducted by doc tors from hospitals like Lady Hardinge Medical College and Safdarjung Hospital, who sent trained mystery shoppers to 81pharmacists in the city to ask for the pills, has revealed that 79% of the dispensing pharmacists were themselves ignorant about the side-effects associated with use of emergency contraception as well as about the anticipated changes in menstrual flow. Also, 85.71% of the respondents did not know whether the pill would provide subsequent protection against conception.
The results published in the latest issue of Indian Journal of Community Medicine said that only 15.71% of the pharmacists counselled shoppers about the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI) on being asked, while 88.5% did not even provide contraceptive advice.
These are contrary to the Union health ministry’s service guidelines that mandate pharmacists to be appropriately informed and to counsel their clients about the side-effects of these pills.
Talking about the unintended effects of the emergency medication, Dr Archana Mishra, one of the doctors who participated in the study , said. “We get many patients complaining about irregular periods and failure to prevent pregnancy . When asked, patients admit they had used contraceptive pill.“
Mishra, who is an assistant professor in the obstetrics and gynaecology department at Safdarjung Hospital, said overenthusiastic advertising of emergency contraceptive pills should not spread a contradictory sexual he alth message to the young population. “Young urban couples often have multiple partners and are therefore open to the risk of STI. They should prefer condoms for contraception rather than depend on emergency pills,“ she said.
Morning-after pills, doctors say, should be used to prevent pregnancy only in the case of an unexpected lapse such as a condom break. “We come across many girls who pop these pills as frequently as five times a month. They tend to forget that it too can fail. Often the male partner does not bring the pills within the stipulated 72-hour pe riod, putting the women at greater risk of conception,“ said another senior gynaecologist.
Pushed by the government and promoted by pharma firms, emergency contraception has been advertised as an option for women since 2002, but made available over the counter after 2005. It was touted as the `chill pill’ with tremendous benefits when considered against the time it took to go to a doctor and get a prescription within the 72hour efficacy window. But in view of its widespread misuse, many doctors are now advocating a ban on over-the-counter sale of these pills.