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November 4, 2011

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'Morning-after' pills overused

SALES of emergency contraception pills in local drug stores are poorly supervised, leaving teenagers and other women open to serious risk from overuse, Shanghai officials say.

According to the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration, teenagers got easy access to the pills with no questions asked by pharmacies. The pills can be dangerous, as overdoses can leave woman with metabolic disorders.

So starting next month, pharmacies will deliver tips to buyers of the pills. The tips will be handed to the buyers by cashier clerks, officials said. The Shanghai FDA will soon inspect the pharmacies to see whether the tips are being delivered to customers.

Officials will also inspect drug stores to check whether medicine for termination of pregnancy, prohibited from being sold in pharmacies, is in fact available.

"Women, especially some teenagers, regard ECP as common birth-control pills," said Wu Junqing, an official with the Shanghai Family Planning Scientific Research Institute. "They take ECP every time after having sex, causing themselves great health damage."

Wu said people should take the pills - sometimes known as "morning-after" pills because they prevent pregnancy if taken in the hours or days after sex - no more than twice every six months. But some women take them more than five times a month.

"I once handled a 15-year-old girl who had over-taken ECP, making her weight soar to more than 90 kilograms and she suffered serious depression," said Wu.

ECP overuse may also cause reproductive system disease or cancer, she said.

Without firm regulation, pharmacies usually don't challenge buyers of the drug, and thus even minors can get ECP without obstacles.

Officials said some people use such pills to carry out abortion because of the baby's gender. Doctors are not generally allowed to tell people their baby's sex but some people find out anyway.


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