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Had an oops moment? Beware of fake emergency pills

Sandra Wekesa and Wangui Githugo @peopleDailyKe         

Postnor 2; the infamous pill.  So high has the demand for this emergency pill been that the market is being  flooded by counterfeit dealers. Last week, the Kenya Anti-counterfeit Agency nabbed 31,000 pieces of Postinor 2 commonly known as P2 estimated to be worth over Sh7 million.

The agency in conjunction with the Ministry of Trade and Industrialisation admitted that there could be more fake P2s in the market already. These pills originally manufactured by Gedeon Ritcher in Budapest, Hungary, were last week imported from China and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) markets in one consignment together with other fake goods.

But P2 has become one of the most misused drugs. Those who run chemists share unending stories of young  and even middle-aged women who flock their premises.

According to Simon Kariuki, a pharmacist in Parklands, Nairobi, many teenagers buy these pills during the weekend after a long weekend of sexual escapades.  He admits that the contraceptive, that is sold over the counter costs between Sh100 and 200 and sell the highest from Sunday and early Monday mornings and during the holidays.

“Usually, I get many clients aged between 17 and 25 years. The sad thing is we get the same clients over and over again. It’s unfortunate that our youths are sexually active, but do not have a wide knowledge on methods of contraceptive to use. And if they know, they tend to ignore,” says Kariuki. 

Kariuki explains that the pill is used to prevent pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. It also may stop the egg and sperm from meeting or prevent a fertilised egg from attaching to the uterus. If you are already pregnant, emergency contraceptive pills are not useful.

“The drug can only be taken once every menstrual cycle. This means you can only take it once every month at most. Taking it more often will upset your hormones and lead to hormonal imbalance and excessive bleeding. So, it’s taken as an emergency contraceptive, but if you need regular contraceptive, you should find a different method,” he says.

There are many reasons one should avoid using the morning after pill on a regular basis. One, it may prevent pregnancy, but not prevent you from contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, frequent use is believed to cause infertility in women.

Researchers are also interested in establishing whether there is any link between these pills and cancer risk. P2 is said to contain a much higher dose of hormones than the normal contraceptive pill, which means that you should not use it regularly. In 2005, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially classified oral contraceptives as a Class 1 carcinogen.

These effects are worsened if the pill is counterfeit. “These counterfeit contraceptives would have posed a great danger to the health and lives of thousands of Kenyans,” Cabinet secretary Adan Mohamed said. He added, “If these drugs were not nabbed, we would be talking of 31,000 cases of either women who may have ended up as single mothers, early pregnancies and a number of attempted abortions by women who would have taken these pills believing they had prevented pregnancies.”

So, how do you identify a fake pill? “For original pills, the packet in which they are contained has an area where once you scratch you will see a combination of numbers and alphabets. While the fake are packaged in a way that is similar to the original one but the ‘scratch to reveal area’ is non-functional,” says Kariuki.

Kariuki’s wish, however, is that youths be knowledgeable in any method of contraceptive they decide to use. “It gets really annoying to keep on explaining to these young ones that if they have to use the morning after pill every other time they have an oops moment, which is happening often, then they should switch to other contraceptive options,” he concludes.

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