NEW DELHI, August 17: The Government today banned the sale, import or manufacture of Quinacrine, five months after it had assured the Supreme Court (SC) that it would ban the controversial chemical contraceptive drug. The Government had come under fire from women's groups and Parliamentarians over the inordinate delay in banning the drug.
An official statement issued by the Government said the notification bans the import, manufacture, sale and distribution of Quinacrine in pellet form for use as a contraceptive.
However, women's groups were sceptical whether the Government would implement the ban strictly. ``It should not be reduced to another scrap of paper,'' said Brinda Karat of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), adding that if the Government was ``really serious in its concerns about misuse of the drug, it should also monitor the health of those women who had Quinacrine pellets inserted in them''.
The AIDWA, along with some faculty members of the Centre for Community Health andSocial Medicine at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, had approached the apex court in March this year seeking a ban on the drug.Quinacrine, used as an anti-malarial drug under the name `Mepacrine', was first used by a Chilean doctor to sterilise women by inserting it in pellet form into the uterus.
In India the drug was being used by some doctors to sterilise women, in many cases without seeking their consent. There was no attempt to monitor the health of the women who had the pellets inserted in them though some of the women had complained of persistent discomfort.
The use of the drug for female sterilisation is banned in the US and in a number of other countries, and except in Chile, no Government has allowed marketing of the drug for contraceptive purposes.
There is medical evidence that the drug increases the chances of ectopic pregnancy, perforation of the uterus and irreversible sterility. It is also said to cause foetal abnormalities and cancer of the uterus.
Sections of the Drugs and CosmeticsAct, 1945, has been amended to give effect to the ban since there is no provision under the Act which prohibits the use of any new drug brought into the country as ``gift item'' for use by doctors.
The notification said violation of the Act would be dealt with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years or a fine of up to Rs 5,000 or both.
Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.