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Chemists in city refuse to stock abortion pills

When a four-month pregnant 21-year-old went for a routine sonography to a civic hospital two weeks ago, the foetus was diagnosed with anencephaly, a condition where the brain does not develop.

mumbai Updated: Jul 06, 2012 02:07 IST
Prachi Pinglay
Prachi Pinglay
Hindustan Times

When a four-month pregnant 21-year-old went for a routine sonography to a civic hospital two weeks ago, the foetus was diagnosed with anencephaly, a condition where the brain does not develop. The doctor recommended an abortion and prescribed an abortion pill, which the woman could take at home.

She visited chemists in Andheri but was told they did not stock the pills. “I finally referred her to KEM Hospital, which has a civic-run dispensary” said the doctor, who treated the woman.

Gynaecologists in the city claim that following a crackdown by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on illegal sale of abortion pills to curb sex-selective abortions, chemists are reluctant to stock the pills, especially those prescribed to terminate a second trimester (between 12 and 20 weeks) pregnancy. The sex of a foetus can be determined during the second trimester.

Doctors said the pill is a better option than surgical abortion as it is closer to the natural process and recovery is faster.

“Abortion pills are off the market. I have heard patients are going from chemist to chemist,” said Dr Nozer Sheriar, secretary general, Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India. “Unavailability of drugs and fear in the minds of doctors are affecting genuine cases,” said Dr Nikhil Datar, a gynaecologist. He said genuine cases needing abortions have become “collateral damage” of the drive against female foeticide. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act allows abortions up to 20 weeks of the pregnancy.

“We do not have clear instructions on how to stock and sell,” said Hakim Kapasi, head of Andheri Chemists’ Association.

“Doctors should contact drug inspectors and assistant commissioners in their area if they are facing a shortage of abortion pills. We will make it available if there is a problem,” said Mahesh Zagade, commissioner, FDA.

FDA has been conducting raids since June and has served notices to 300 chemists statewide.

First Published: Jul 06, 2012 02:06 IST