In a relief for several women who are bearing the brunt of a shadow ban on contraceptive pills in Tamil Nadu for almost 13 years, the Directorate of Drugs Control Department is likely to direct chemists and pharmacies across the state to ensure the availability of the emergency pills in retail sales.
Also known as ‘morning-after’ pills, the contraceptives are taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse, to avoid pregnancy.
The department is also likely to clarify the inaccessibility or insufficient stocking of the pills in pharmacies, apparently due to a ban on them and intra-department instructions.
The drug authority’s measure comes in response to a complaint by social activist Archanaa Seker, who along with a team of lawyers had sought a clarification on the ban on contraceptives and urged the department to direct pharmacies to stock enough drugs.
Seker also shot letters to the Health Department, Home Affairs Departmemt, Social Welfare Department, and State Commission for Women regarding the same.
“It appears that several pharmacies are acting upon undocumented ‘directives’ from the Drug Controller’s office and not retaining sufficient stock of emergency contraceptives and are refusing to sell the same. This directly affects women’s right to access these medicines and their exercise of reproductive choices and impacts their physical, sexual and emotional well- being,” she wrote.
Archana told The News Minute that a day after she wrote the mail, the Director of Drugs control demanded a clarification on the matter from all drug inspectors.
Archanaa said the drug inspector of her locality also met her and assured that he will ensure that emergency contraceptives are replenished for retail sale in a few weeks’ time.
“The [emergency] contraceptive pills are not banned but we have restricted the sale to only pharmacies in hospitals. The remaining pharmacies can provide the pills after putting a seal on the prescription and saving the photocopies. We started doing this after many people bought pills with the same prescriptions at multiple places,” Manohar, the president of Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggist Association was quoted as saying.
“Taking an overdose of the pills results in prolonged health issues for the women. In some cases, over-bleeding also causes deaths and we are being questioned for negligence. So this is the reason for not stocking a lot of emergency contraceptives,” he was quoted as saying.