Bengaluru: Pharmacists sell abortion kits illegally

Bengaluru: Many pharmacies across the city sell abortion kits illegally, increasing chances of improper usage and enhanced health risk for women using them. 

According to the law, an abortion kit can be sold only against a doctor's prescription, but that is confined only to the rule book. 

An abortion kit or the unwanted kit is used by women who are pregnant for eight weeks or less to avoid giving birth. 

But these kits are available freely over the counter at several pharmacies in the city.

Lokesh, a pharmacist, said, "I ask for a prescription when a customer comes to buy the kit. But yes, some pharmacists sell it without the necessary prescription. Probably many are not aware that it is illegal, but majority just doesn't care, either for the health of the woman or for the law." 

The "unwanted kit" comes with Mifepristone and Misoprostol tablets. Mifepristone obstructs the hormone, progesterone, needed to maintain pregnancy. When this hormone is jammed, the uterine lining begins to drop and the cervix begins to soften and there might be bleeding. Then the woman has to take the second medication, Misoprostol, which will lead to uterus contraction and the pregnancy will get terminated within 6 to 8 hours.  

Dr Usha Manjunath, Director, Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR), said, "Self-administration and buying of abortion pills at pharmacies continue because of lack of education on its complications, family pressure and easy availability at pharmacies without prescription." 

If the medication is not consumed properly and in appropriate amounts without consulting a doctor, the patient is prone to several side-effects, like massive bleeding which can seriously affect the health of the patient that could even be life-threatening. 

Dr Purnima, a gynaecologist from the city, said, "Mifepristone and Misoprostol tablets should not be issued without a doctor's prescription as they come under schedule H drugs. Licences of pharmacists who are selling the drug over the counter should be cancelled as it is unsafe to consume these tablets without consultation."

Schedule H contains a list of drugs that can be sold only against the prescription of a registered medical practitioner. 

Another provision that needs to be followed is that only the required amount of medications mentioned in the prescription can be dispensed and these drugs can be supplied only to licensed parties.

Nausea, weakness and giddiness are also the side-effects of these medicines. At times, the person can have cramps and bleeding and still be pregnant. 

Therefore patient must follow-up the visits with the doctor. Dr Usha said that in the country, it is not uncommon as many women consider medical abortion to be the preferred method of birth spacing without proper understanding of complications.

"It is possible that second trimester medical abortions could be sex selective in nature, where in no documentation is generated (prescription or pharmacy bills) to maintain secrecy. Law enforcement against 'over the counter sale' of abortion kits is very weak in the country. Awareness about implications on the woman's health and stricter laws are important to guide people towards healthy birth control options," she said. 

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