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Traders hike price of banned ‘herbal contraceptive’ as stocks run out

Women who use banned herbal contraceptive from China are a worried lot after it disappeared from the market due to movement restrictions.

Ironically, this comes as a blessing to the government, after the public failed to heed warnings to stop using the banned herbal pill.

The contraceptive, locally known as Sophia, is popular among women in poor neighbourhoods.

Jane, a mother of one, says the pill ran out in shops in March after the government banned international flights.

“I am now popping a pill daily. This is risky because one might forget to swallow and get pregnant,” she said.

“The pill was good though we hear it was banned.

“You only needed to take one pill per month unlike other pills which you have to take daily for 28 days as prescribed,” says Grace, a resident of Pipeline Estate in Nairobi.

The pill, which costs between Sh150 and Sh200 per tablet was banned 10 years ago by Kenya Pharmacy and Poisons Board due to negative side effects on women and babies but unscrupulous traders have continued to stock it.

“We get it through a long process of importation from China but since the flights were stopped, we have not received it. Women prefer it to other pills.

“When the ban on international flights is lifted we will stock it,” said a shop attendant in Pipeline estate, who the Saturday Standard team told we wanted to buy the pill.

We were referred to another shop in a building commonly known as ‘bypass’.

The pill was available but the price had been increased because of its scarcity. 

“We had enough in stock but it is running out and we were forced to increase the price because of high demand.

“Currently, we are selling one tablet for Sh300 up from between Sh150 and Sh200 and it might go up to Sh500 because importation has been affected,” said the attendant, who asked not to be named.

Heavy legs and tiredness

The pill can also be bought online from traders who deliver on order across the country.

Beatrice Mbithe, whom we found at the shop waiting to be served, said she has been using the pill for three years and has never experienced any side effects.

“I have never had the side effects I hear people talking about, so far. I just need to swallow one pill for the month.

“The challenge is now the price but since I have no alterrnative, I have to buy it even at a higher price,” said Ms Mbithe, a mother of two.

The banned herbal pill is said to have side effects on breastfeeding mothers with the common ones being nausea, tender breasts, palpitations, ‘heavy’ legs and tiredness. Other complications associated with the drug are swollen feet, painful muscles and slurred speech.

An analysis by National Quality Control Laboratory that led to the ban of the pill found that it has high levels of levonorgestrel and quinestrol hormones, which are the active ingredients in conventional contraceptive pills.

It was found that the pill has over 40 times the recommended hormones, as much as 3000mcg of estradiol, 100 times more than the recommended daily dosage of 30mcg. 

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