The government has issued an advisory to all the marketers of oral emergency contraceptive pills (ECP) asking them not to advertise the product.
"Since drug advertising is not permitted under the existing rule, we have sent an advisory to all pharmaceutical companies making ECPs, asking them not to advertise their products through mass media," a source in the Health Ministry told the news agency on condition of anonymity.
ECP drugs are to be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex to avoid pregnancy. Emergency contraceptive pills are not scheduled drugs and can thus be bought over-the-counter, that is to say, without a prescription.
According to the information available, though around 15 companies are now producing ECPs in the country, Piramal Healthcare, Morepen, and Mankind together control over 80 per cent share in the segment.
The national health regulator Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) had earlier this year withdrawn the permission to advertise ECPs through print and electronic media as the ads did not convey the fact that the pills were to be consumed only in case of emergency.
But later, the Health Ministry had permitted it on condition that such ads should make the consumer aware of the side-effects. But recently the DCGI sent notices to three drug makers for showing the ads without addressing the concerns raised by the government.
"The three companies have been asked to respond to the notice within 14 days, failing which the DCGI would may take action against them," the source said.
The technical advisory body for drugs had also decided to frame guidelines on ads of ECPs following reports of side-effects in some cases due to indiscriminate use.