10th Anniversary of Naba Martin Adongo Abilba III

 Rev Dr Dennis Sena Awitty, Executive Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, speaking to Daily Graphic's Augustina Tawiah
Rev Dr Dennis Sena Awitty, Executive Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, speaking to Daily Graphic's Augustina Tawiah

Misuse of emergency contraceptive pills on the rise...Among young ladies, students

Many females, especially young ladies are misusing Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECP), the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, has observed.

The society said instead of the medicine being used for emergency situations of unprotected sex, there were reports among the youth in educational campuses, using them repeatedly to prevent pregnancy.

The Executive Secretary of the society, Rev. Dr Dennis Sena Awitty, who disclosed this in an interview with the Daily Graphic, stressed the need to scale up education for those misusing it to understand the long-term implications of their actions.

He said though currently there was no documentary evidence of the long-term side effects of the misuse of the ECP, once it was not being used for the intended purpose, it would have a side effect.

"Listen to the name of the medicine - emergency contraception. Something happens and you take it but to persistently and repeatedly use it could lead to side effects that are unknown and side effects are normally not pleasant. 

“The short-term side effects such as most hormonal medicines include nausea and vomiting but the long-term, we are yet to find out," he stated.

What are emergency contraceptive pills?

The World Health Organisation  (WHO) defines emergency contraception as methods of contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse.  They are recommended for use within five days but are more effective the sooner they are used after the act of intercourse.

The WHO mentions any woman or girl of reproductive age as those who can take it to avoid an unwanted pregnancy 

It, however, cautioned that the frequent and repeated use of ECP may be harmful for women with conditions classified as medical eligibility criteria category two, three or four for combined hormonal contraception or progestin-only contraceptives. It further said continuous use of emergency contraception could result in increased side-effects such as menstrual irregularities  although their repeated use poses no known health risks.

It advised women who wanted to use it as their main method of contraception to seek further counselling on what other and more regular contraceptive options might be more appropriate and more effective. 

Rigorous process

Rev. Dr Awitty explained that before any medicine was put on the market, it passed through rigorous regulation,research and clinical trials to determine its efficacy and side effects, but often times, all the side effects of the medication would not be known until they were deployed to the general population for use as well as a  market surveillance had been undertaken.

He said these side effects,when detected, would  then be documented and over time, added to the portfolio of that particular medication.
Rev. Dr Awitty advised those misusing the medicine to bear in mind that beyond the long-term side effects of the misuse of ECP which were immediately not known, the risk of contracting incurable sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, syphilis and gonorrhoea through unprotected sex were high and that should be the worry of people. 

"Generally, don’t use medicines when there are other options because most medicines will cure and do good but can cause harm when they are not used properly," adding that the word pharmacy from the Greek word, pharmako, meant to heal and to harm.

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