Over the counter sale of abortion pills - time to act now


  • Ritu Sharma NDMC Medical College & Hindu Rao Hospital, Delhi, India
  • Mamta Gupta NDMC Medical College & Hindu Rao Hospital, Delhi, India
  • Shakti Sharma NDMC Medical College & Hindu Rao Hospital, Delhi, India




Medical abortion, Abortion pill, Mifepristone, Misoprostol, Unsafe abortions


Background: Government of India has approved abortion pill for termination of early pregnancy. But over the counter availability of this drug instead has earned a bad name for this miracle drug. The aim of this study was to find out the incidence of over the counter availability of abortion pills, the outcome associated with this practice and what cost society has ultimately to pay for this unethical practice.

Methods: This is a retrospective observational study. Among 200 patients who reported to Gynecology emergency with signs and symptoms suggestive of abortion process, those with history of abortion pill intake without prescription were included in the study group and their records were evaluated.

Results: 70 patients who bought abortion pills over the counter were included in the study group. 90% (63/70) patients were not using any kind of contraceptive method. Only 55.71% (39/70) patients took the abortion pills as per the recommended standard protocol. Gestational age was < 8 weeks in 45.71% (32/70) patients only. Most common presenting complaint was varying amount of bleeding per vaginum followed by abdominal pain met in 97.14% (68/70) and 30% (21/70) patients respectively. 7.14% (5/70) patients presented to emergency in shock. Final diagnosis was complete abortion in 21.42% (15/70) patients, incomplete abortion in 47.14% (33/70), missed abortion in 11.42% ( 8/70), septic abortion in 7.14% ( 5/70) , threatened abortion in 5.71% ( 4/70), ectopic pregnancy in 5.71% ( 4/70) and molar pregnancy in 1.42% ( 1/70) patients and they were managed accordingly as per standard guidelines.

Conclusion: The women in India should be aware of their legal right to safe abortion. They should stop buying the drug without prescription as medical abortion facilities are being made easily available, accessible and affordable to all. However strict ban on over the counter availability of abortion pills can make the situation worse.


World Health Organization. The global burden of disease, 2004 update. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2008.

World Health Organization. The World Health Report 2005. Make Every Mother and Child Count. The World Health Organization: Geneva. WHO, 2005.

World Health Organization. Unsafe abortion: Global and regional estimates of the incidence of unsafe abortion and associated mortality in 2008. 6th edition. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 2011.

Grimes DA, Benson J, Singh S, Romero M, Ganatra B, Okonofua FE, et al. Unsafe abortion: the preventable pandemic. The Lancet Sexual and Reproductive Health Series. 2006;368(9550):1908-19.

Boland R, Katzive L. Developments in laws on induced abortion: 1998-2007. International Family Planning Perspectives. 2008;34(3):110-20.

Singh S, Wulf D, Hussain R, Bankole A. Sedgh G. Abortion worldwide: a decade of uneven progress. New York, Guttmacher Institute, 2009.

Unsafe abortions: eight maternal deaths every hour. Editorial. The Lancet. 2009;374(9698):1301.

Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (India). Annual report 2006–2007. New Delhi, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, 2008.

Singh S, Darroch J, Vlassoff. M. Adding it up. The costs and benefits of investing in family planning and maternal and newborn health. New York, Guttmacher Institute, 2009.

United Nations Population Division. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. World contraceptive use 2007 (wallchart). New York, United Nations, 2009.






Original Research Articles