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Aug 22, 2007 at 07:49am IST

Bitter pill for Cipla, TN cracks down on contraceptive ad

Chennai: Cipla's new emergency contraceptive, popularly known as the 'morning after pill', the i-pill is showing contra-indications in Tamil Nadu.

The Tamil Nadu Directorate of Drugs Control has sent a notice to a popular Tamil magazine, Ananda Vikatan, for publishing advertisements of the i-pill.

Says Director Of Drugs Control, N Selvaraju, "The Drugs and Magical Remedies Act of 1954 clearly says that drugs which cause contraception in women must not be advertised. Cipla doesn't have exemption from the government for this."

There are other complaints against the drug too. Oral contraceptives fall under Schedule H of the Drugs Act and the i-pill pack doesn't mention anywhere that it falls in that particular category. Schedule H drugs must be sold only on the prescription of a medico.

Also the government has an issue over the dosage. They say the legal dosage of the compound levo-norgestrel is 0.15 mg, whereas Cipla's i-pill contains 10 times that amount.

Cipla's management, meanwhile, refused to comment on camera but Joint MD Cipla, Amar Lulla, said: "We have exemption from the government to advertise. The i-pill is not a Schedule H drug and we have all the necessary clearances from the Health Department as well as other departments."

The state government has 'moral' issues as well.

Says N Selvaraju, "The advertising of this drug will mean that women will think 'I can do anything and there's an easy way not to get pregnant'. We can't allow such an attitude. We are not against women's rights, but this is a moral concern."

Women's rights groups though say that the wording of the Drugs Act itself is sexist in nature.

The Act talks specifically about banning drugs that cause miscarriage in women and prevent women from conceiving. Activists say that laws must be modified in tune with the changing times.

Says advocate and Women's Rights activist, Sudha Ramalingam, "This is certainly not a moral issue. It's about giving proper information and empowering women to make a choice. So advertise the pill but give all the negative side effects so that women can make an informed choice."

Cipla had lost a similar case against the Tamil Nadu government last year for its drug Norlevo, which was another emergency contraceptive.