NEW DELHI: A survey to assess the availability of the medical abortion pills in six states has shown its acute shortage in the majority of the states, triggering concerns of a sharp rise in unwanted pregnancies in the coming months as a large number of women lack this access.
The study by Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India among 1,500 chemists found that there was an overwhelming shortage of the drugs in five out of the six states surveyed with an abysmal stocking in Madhya Pradesh (6.5 per cent), Punjab (1.0 per cent), Tamil Nadu (2.0 per cent), Haryana (2.0 per cent), and Delhi (34.0 per cent). The only state that did better was Assam (69.6 per cent).
The non-stocking of MA drugs seems to be linked with over-regulation by drug control authorities, said authorities at the FRSHI, adding that about 79 per cent of chemists no longer stock MA drugs to avoid legal issues and excessive documentation requirements.
Also, 54.8 per cent of chemists also reports that MA drugs are over-regulated as compared to other schedule H drugs.
Even in Assam, 58 per cent chemists report over-regulation of MA drugs. State-wise regulatory or legal barriers continue to be a major reason for not stocking MA drugs, with 63 per cent chemists in Haryana, 40 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, 74 per cent in Punjab and 79 per cent in Tamil Nadu reporting so.
VS Chandrashekar, CEO of the FRHSI and Pratigya Campaign Advisory Group member said medical abortion has increasingly become the preferred method to terminate a pregnancy in India and the non-availability of drugs is threatening women’s access to safe abortion.
“Evidence shows MA drugs are a safe and effective means to terminate a pregnancy, their non-availability can potentially reverse the gains made by the country in reducing unsafe abortions, maternal mortality and morbidity,” he said.
While the purpose of the study was to verify the availability of MA drugs, the findings also revealed that emergency contraceptive pills are not being stocked by chemists in the state of Tamil Nadu.