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    Thursday, 24 November 2016

    Crisis as morning after pills run out



    ELIZABETH MASHIRI
    MIDLANDS BUREAU CHIEF

    GWERU – The Levonorgestrel Tablets (Morning after pills), a drug used in emergency situation as a contraceptive to prevent pregnancies has run out and pharmacists are concerned at both the upswing in uptake and the consequences of its unavailability.
    The Mirror conducted a survey throughout the Southern Region (Masvingo Province, Midlands, Mash East, Mat South and parts of Manicaland) and established that all pharmacies are out of supply of the tablet which women take within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
    Pharmacists who spoke to The Mirror on condition of anonymity said there was an alarming increase in the number of people who sleep without condoms. They said this raises a lot of concern particularly in the area of the fight against HIV and Aids.
    The pharmacists said that morning after pills sales were at their highest on Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning or during holidays. One pharmacist said he can get one customer throughout the week but come Saturday to Monday he would be selling to more than 20 every day.
    The increase in demand for morning after pills is also higher in towns where there are higher institutes of learning particularly universities and examples are Masvingo, Gweru and Zvishavane.
    The pharmacists said the absence of the pill will create serious problems of unwanted pregnancies, a rise in abortions, unorthodox means of preventing pregnancies including dangerous concoctions, stress and suicide.
    Pharmacists in Masvingo said that they have not had the drug for more than two weeks now.
    In Gweru, pharmacies have not had the drug for more three weeks and unorthodox methods are being used to get around the problem as The Mirror discovered during investigations.
    It emerged that some pharmacies are repackaging family planning pills and selling them to save the same purposes as morning after pills.
    At one pharmacy the pharmacist said that family planning pills save the same purpose as morning after pills but in this case one will take four pills soon after unprotected sex and another four pills 12 hours later.
    Apart from the increase in the use of the pill, pharmacists also blamed the shortages on the withdrawal of donors who used to fund the family planning projects.
    Population Services International (PSI) and Zimbabwe National Family Planning (ZNFP) are no longer supplying private sector players. Greenwood is one of the major suppliers of the private sector players but it is failing to cope with demand.
    Provincial Medical Director Amadeous Shamu said, "I have not received that information as doctors do not recommend them because their failure rate is high".
    Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) Provincial Manager Peter Vhoko said his organisation has also run out of the morning after pills. He however, said ZNFPC gave the pills out for free and they are expecting the next supply after next week. Vhoko also added that the pill is in demand because youth preferred it as it is more convinient than the family planning pill.
    "One just takes it once after the act unlike family planning pills that are taken everyday," said Vhoko.
    The pharmacists however warned that the morning after pill also has serious side effects if abused. One pharmacist said as a profession it is their ethical obligation to ensure safe and efficacy use of medicines and in the case of morning after pill, it is an abuse of the drug to take it twice within one menstrual circle.
    "There are serious side effects if the pill is taken more than once within a menstrual circle. These includes developing cancer of breasts, ovarian cysist, failure to get pregnant, hypertension and gaining weight,  said one pharmacist.
    The Minister of Health and Child Care Doctor David Parirenyatwa said that Morning After pills are not normally available at public healthy institutions because the drug is an emergence drug and having it running out means people are not using contraceptives.
    "Normally this drug is not available at public institutions because we say its an emergence drug but having it running out is worrisome because we want people to use preventive measures to reduce the spread of HIV and AIDs. It's however a challenge in places where there is a lot of tertiary institutions," said Parirenyatwa.
    According to National Aids Council (NAC) research four pharmacies in Gweru CBD have from January 2014 to December 2015 sold between 200 to 800 morning after pills are within a month.
    Some 3000 Morning After pills are sold in the whole of Gweru Urban District, according to NAC Aids Coordinator Murari Hwigwiri.top stoy news
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