City doctors are worried about the government lifting the ban on advertising emergency contraceptive pills (ECP) this month. According to them, advertising morning-after pills, which are essentially strong hormone pills, should not be encouraged.
“No drug should be advertised. A drug should be taken only after consulting a doctor. For instance, in case of ECPs, the girl need not take the pill if she has had unprotected intercourse during safe days,” said Dr Rekha Agarwal, consulting gynaecologist with Lilavati Hospital.
Moreover, people are likely to be confused between ECP and abortion pills. Kirti Agarwal (name changed) is one such case. The 22-year-old IT professional was shocked when she discovered she was pregnant in August. She had just undergone an abortion by taking abortion pills in June and took birth control pills for three days after that. She thought that she would not get pregnant so easily again.
“This patient got confused between the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP), abortion pills and the birth control pills. She thought they all serve the same purpose and that she had to take the same dosage,” said Dr Swarna Goyal, consulting gynaecologist at Agarwal nursing home at Bandra.
The Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) lifted the ban on October 10, after 10 months. The ban was imposed because the DTAB said the ads promote drugs as regular contraceptives and misrepresent abortion. The DTAB has now proposed new guidelines to ensure the ads are not misinterpreted. The guidelines state that a committee, including the principal of a reputable girls' college, representatives from NGOs and the advertising council can screen the ads and the scripts before they go on air.
Doctors, however, feel these guidelines might not be enough. “Whenever information is given to the public, it should be complete. Youngsters need to know that having unprotected sex can cause sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and syphilis among others,” said Dr Rekha Daver, head of obstetrics and gynaecology, JJ Hospital.
Also, the side effects of these pills should be made very clear in advertisements.
“It is unlikely that the ad is going to say that ECPs should not be taken frequently. Young girls are popping it so often these days not knowing that their period cycles can go haywire. The ad should clearly say that this is not a method of contraception. Besides that, 100% protection against pregnancy cannot be guaranteed,” said Goyal. But the new guidelines state that ads should make it clear that the pills have side effects including disruption of menstrual cycle.