Two potent drugs smuggled from India are now being widely used for illegal abortions in Sri Lanka, medical sources warned last week.
Though unregistered, the two Indian-made brands, Mifeprostone and Misoprostol are being sold stealthily in many pharmacies across the country, they asserted.
"The heavy demand and the hefty profit are an incentive to push the two drugs, prescribed mostly by quacks running illicit abortion clinics", the sources said. "Sold at fancy prices, it is easy money".
An organized ring, driven by the ready demand and enormous margins, is suspected to be at the bottom of the smuggling operation, they said. "It’s a well planned job".
"Under desperate circumstances, women will pay any price to buy these drugs", the sources pointed out. "That is where the smugglers cash in".
"Our inspectors can certainly investigate if there is specific information about outlets selling the drugs", Dr. Dhammika Jayalath, Director of the Drugs Authority said.
"We are closely coordinating with the Customs to curb the smuggling of unregistered drugs which pose a big threat if allowed to go unchecked", she stressed. "It is unlawful for anybody to either prescribe or use such drugs in Sri Lanka".
"Unidentifiable drugs detected in the personal baggage of passengers are sent to us for a report", she said. "That’s generally done".
Medical sources expressed the belief that these illegal brands are widely smuggled via personal baggage of frequent travelers to India.
"Very few people realize the danger of taking Mifeprostone also known as ‘RU 486’, described as "the world’s first oral abortion pill", as it could cause excessive bleeding", the sources cautioned.
Just as much as countries such as the United States has banned the import of Mifeprostone because of its possible deadly consequences, Sri Lanka has also refrained from registering it to be recognized as a legal product, they said.
"Developed in France, some countries have disallowed the import of Mifeprostone following protests by religious and anti-abortion groups".
Quacks in Sri Lanka prescribe these two drugs to women to produce an abortion within the first three months of pregnancy. They are asked to take three tablets of Mifeprostone on day one followed by two tablets of Misoprostol on day three, the sources said.
"These illegal medical practitioners operate hand-in-glove with smuggling outfits as they know where women could purchase these drugs from".
"People can help us to curb this menace by giving us information on pharmacies selling such illegal brands", Dr. Jayalath said. "We are very strict on unregistered products".
Of course, there is provision in the law to issue a personal user license to patients who need to import drugs not available in Sri Lanka for their use, she explained. "That’s allowed".
"Our inspectors will check on this information", Dr. Jayalath assured. "Pharmacies caught dealing in unregistered products will be legally dealt with".