Sachin Jagdale – Mumbai
Maharashtra FDA’s efforts to curb female foeticides has resulted in an unexpected side effect: a growing number of chemists are returning MTP kits, and in some cases, even contraceptives to their distributors.
Officials of the state FDA body had noticed several bulk purchases of Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) kits by certain distributors and chemists. On the assumption that these unusually high orders of MTPs were linked to terminate pregnancies after sex determination tests, the state FDA gave instructions to raid chemist shops dispensing MTP kits in the absence of legitimate prescriptions.
As a consequence of this crackdown, many chemists in the state have started returning MTP kits to the distributors/ manufacturers, fearing action from FDA authorities. Moreover, many chemists are now wary of stocking even contraceptive pills in their premises. This preemptive action could result in the shortage of these items.
According to FDA authorities, the circular from the Maharashtra FDA Commissioner spurring these reactions has been “misunderstood” by chemists.
While speaking about the entire controversy, Dilip Kadam, Executive Member, All India Organisation of Chemists & Druggists (AIOCD) and Maharashtra State Chemists and Druggists Association (MSCDA) , said, “Chemists from areas where there is no practicing gynaecologist are mainly inclined towards returning back MTP kits. It is also true to some extent that chemists are giving back contraceptive pills as well, which are actually Government approved. Chemists are ready to do away with these products instead of getting questioned, harassed or raided by FDA authorities.”
He adds, “In rural Maharashtra well qualified doctors are a scarcity. Many hospitals are run by doctors who have BHMS, BAMS etc degrees. These hospitals do have visiting gynaecologists who are allowed to prescribe MTP kits. However, since the prescription is made on the hospital’s prescription pad (which are operated by doctors with degrees like BHMS, BAMS), the question is: will a chemist be legally right in honouring such a prescription? We are not clear on this point.”
Sources say that the trend of returning contraceptive pills and MTP kits is expected to gain momentum in the coming future inspite of the clarification. A source from a leading chain of chemists in Mumbai said, “If a chemist works as per rules, then there is no harm to him or to his business. It is true that there is panic among chemists. However, I think FDA should come clear on its guidelines. This will only help to sort out the current confusion.”