Drugs Of Desperation

With Indian drug manufacturers registering a remarkable rise in sales over the last few years, Kashmir is consuming pleasure drugs and contraceptives like never before. Does it reflect the crisis within our society, Bilal Handoo reports.

There has been a gradual rise in the sale of contraceptives and pleasure drugs in Kashmir since last few years. The data accessed by Kashmir Life shows that the sales of pharmaceutical companies have increased over the years. A report prepared by the local medical representatives in Srinagar, J&K’s summer capital, reveals that there are around 13 pharmaceutical companies who supply contraceptives and pleasure drugs to druggists in Kashmir valley.

“Though the exact sale of these drugs has not been counted but the profit runs in lakhs of rupees on a monthly basis,” Showkat Ahmad, a local medical representative, says. Mankind is one of India’s largest drug manufacturers whose contraceptive pills registered a sale of Rs 3.5 lakh last month, according to its regional manager in Kashmir, Muzaffar Ahmad. “This drug has shown a remarkable sale in the market,” he said.

The pleasure drug manufactured by Mankind recorded Rs 2.5 lakh in sales last month. The company is optimist about a gradual rise in the sales owing to the ‘mass consumption’ by the people in Kashmir. John White Pharmaceuticals is another major supplier of contraceptives and pleasure drugs in regional markets. According to its super stockiest, Shabir Ahmad, the people of Kashmir are consuming these drugs like never before. “Contraceptive and pleasure drugs sell like hot cakes in the valley markets,” he said.

The regional manager of John White Pharmaceuticals, Aijaz Ahmad, said the monthly consumption of such drugs is rising. “The monthly sale of its pleasure drugs is between Rs 4 to 4.5 lakhs,” he said. He attributes the increasing sex awareness among the people of Kashmir as a reason behind the consumption of these drugs.

“It is a good thing that married people are using contraceptives to check unwanted births. But at the same time, increasing consumption of contraceptives among unmarried girls is worrisome,” he added.

Abort India is another major pharmaceutical player supplying contraceptives and pleasure drugs to the druggists in Kashmir valley. Various retailers across Srinagar have huge stock of contraceptives and pleasure drugs manufactured by Abort India.

“The sales have increased manifold from the last few years,” said a local drug retailer in Lal Chowk area, the hub of Srinagar city. He, however, remained tightlipped about the actual figures of sales. “We sell a bulk of these drugs. Sales run in lakhs of rupees. A lot of young boys and girls form bulk purchasers of these drugs,” he said.

His views were echoed by another drug retailer in Srinagar’s Rainawari area. “Emergency contraceptives and pleasure drugs are the most sought-after drugs these days, especially by youth,” Fayaz Ahmad, a drug retailer said.

The data prepared by local medical representatives reveals that Viagra which is costlier is consumed upto 100-200 tablets per month in Kashmir. “A single Viagra tablets costs around Rs 400. Therefore most people prefer Indian made tablets which are relatively cheaper,” said a medical representative, Abdul Qayoom. He claimed that around 13,000 tablets of Indian manufactured pleasure drugs are consumed per month in Srinagar city.

“Most people consume drugs like Viagra out of ignorance and 90 percent consumers are misusing it. This drug is especially meant for erectile dysfunction in males of 40 – 50 age group but most people consume it by assuming that it will add to their pleasure making which is not true,” he said.

It is not only the druggists who claim a rise in the consumption of contraceptives and pleasure drugs among Kashmiris. The doctors also affirm that there has been a rise in the consumption of these drugs among the people. “Yes, Kashmiris are consuming these drugs in bulk today. Contraceptives are especially being consumed in large quantity now,” said a gynecologist, Dr Naseema Firdous.

She claims that a large number of patients who rely on these drugs have been frequently visiting her. “Females have become career oriented these days, which induces them to consume these (contraceptive) drugs.”

“Since these drugs are easily available at local chemist, people have free access to them. Contraceptives are consumed in large quantities by unmarried girls. I have treated patients including teenage girls who come to hospitals after developing complications by consuming these drugs,” Dr Shaheena Rasool, a Srinagar based gynecologist said. Dr Snobar Gulshan, a gynecologist working at a government hospital echoed her views. “About 10 – 15 cases per week visit hospital with drug complications after consuming contraceptives and pleasure drugs,” she said.

But the use of contraceptives is nothing new to J&K. A recent pilot study carried out by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare suggested that J&K is one of the two states – the other is Bihar, where the use of condoms has exhibited an increase – by 8%.

National family Surveys, being conducted by the ministry, offer a lot of details about the methods and means that married couples use for family planning. In 1998, the 49% of married women in J&K were using contraception – 28% were sterilized, 5% were using condoms, and 3% contraceptive pills.

By 2005-06, the last survey accessed by this reporter suggested that overall use of contraceptives had reached 52.6%. While 26.3% of these surveyed married women had underwent sterilization, the male sterilization has gone down from 3% to 2.6%, use of pill improved to 4.7%, 2.7% has installed IUD, 0.8% had some injectables as the use of condoms had appreciated to 8%. Interestingly, urbanites are more used to condoms – it is 6.5% in rural versus 11.8% urban, according to the FHS survey.

Health ministry officials said at one stage it was local non-availability that was an issue in the periphery. “The latest survey shows that it is picking up as people have enough of confidence that they seek and pay for it from ASHA workers,” a senior Health and Family Welfare officer said. “In 40% of the cases, they pay for it and it is highly encouraging.”

Right now the overall supply of condoms in Kashmir is more than three million pieces a year.

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