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India Bans Sterilization Drug

An anti-malarial drug called quinacrine which has also been used to sterilize women there was banned by the government.

Women’s rights activists in India led the campaign to ban the import, manufacture, sale and distribution of contraceptive pellets made of quinacrine, charging that the World Health Organization says the drug has not been proven safe and could cause cancer. They also contend that doctors do not inform many women of the drug’s dangers, and that poor, uneducated women are being used as “guinea pigs.” Professor Dr. Mohan Rao of Jawaharlal Nehru University said that the drugs should be tested “on white women in the First World.”

Quinacrine causes sterilization by scarring a woman’s fallopian tubes in order to prevent the ovary’s eggs from reaching the uterus. Proponents of the drug argue that poor, uneducated Indian women have little alternative to the drug, which is cheap, avoids invasive surgery and allows women to keep working during treatment. They further argue that pregnancy itself kills more than 500,000 women each year, mostly in poorer areas where health care is scarce and less than adequate.

Sources:

AP - January 11, 1999