Hard labour for abortion pills as strict rules spook chemists #MTP #abortion #reproductiverights

, TNN | Apr 14, 2013, 02.41 AM IST

 MUMBAI: Bhavin Dave was married for just over six weeks when his wife realized she was pregnant. The two rushed to a doctor, who said the best way for them to deal with the unplanned pregnancy was with a medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) drug. She prescribed the pill and asked that it be taken by the next day. That was when their real struggle began.
Bhavin (name changed) scrambled from pharmacy to pharmacy, but nobody could sell the drug to him. He visited chemists in his neighbourhood of Malad (E) and also in Kandivli, Goregaon and Dawabazaar in Marine Lines. “Most chemists claimed that they did not store the medicine,” he said.

When a pharmacist finally agreed to sell him the drug, he demanded five times the maximum retail price. “The medicine’s MRP was Rs 499. The chemist sold it at Rs 2,500. He said, ‘Take it or leave it.’ I took it,” Bhavin said.

The Daves’ travail is not uncommon. Scores of couples face it because most city phamacies no longer store the drug citing strict FDA rules.

Most city pharmacies no longer store the drug, citing strict Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demands for documentation that were imposed as part of the government drive against female foeticide. Several of the chemists who do stock the medicine sell it at a premium.

“We get many patients with unwanted pregnancies,” said a gynaecologist. According to doctors, MTP drugs can be used till seven weeks of gestation. “By the time a woman realizes she has missed her period and confirms pregnancy, a little time has been already lost,” said the gynaecologist. This generally leaves women with about two weeks to abort with the help of the medicine. In cases where a woman is having irregular periods, the situation can turn out to be more urgent.

Chemists say that it is better not to stock MTP drugs than to face FDA paperwork. Prasad Danave, general secretary of the Retail Dispensing Chemist Association, said pharmacies are required to conduct several checks even if a patient has a prescription for an MTP drug. “They have to make sure that the prescription is correct and given by a proper MD gynaecologist who runs an authorized MTP centre,” Danave said. “For that reason, chemists generally do not give these drugs if they do not know the person to be from their locality.”

Pharmacists also have to keep records of patients and their contact details apart from photocopies of the prescriptions. “They have to maintain the records of each MTP tablet stocked,” said Danave.

A few chemists said the FDA contacts the manufacturers of MTP drugs to identify their biggest dealers. “Suppose we buy 150 tablets. If the FDA gets to know about the purchase, its officials visit for checks. We have to be completely accountable for all the tablets. Since the demand is not very high, the sale is also not much,” said a chemist at Dawabazaar in Marine Lines.

The FDA said pharmacies have to provide the drug on being furnished right prescriptions. “If a chemist stocks the drug, he has to sell it and on the correct MRP. We will investigate this matter,” said FDA joint commissioner K B Shende.



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