Hormonal contraceptive drug is sold on marketplaces under the guise of Chinese medicine

Hormonal contraceptive drug is sold on marketplaces under the guise of Chinese medicine

WHO expert Lyubov Erofeeva discovered that a contraceptive drug, unregistered in the Russian Federation, containing high doses of the synthetic female sex hormone levonorgestrel, is freely sold on Russian marketplaces. At the same time, the description stated that we were talking about a Chinese traditional medicine with “natural ingredients.” Sellers advised taking the pills once a month for three to five years - and gynecologists interviewed by Kommersant warned that this was “very dangerous for women’s health.” Roszdravnadzor, after a request from Kommersant, demanded that the product pages on Ozon and Wildberries be removed, but it is still available on small regional resources. Experts believe that online platforms are not interested in selling dangerous drugs, but unscrupulous sellers manage to bypass marketplace algorithms.

Obstetrician-gynecologist, WHO expert Lyubov Erofeeva found on Ozon in the “Intimate Hygiene Products” section a product called “Contraceptive pills Levonorgestrel and Quinestrol.” The photograph showed a package of tablets with Chinese characters (delivery was promised from a “warehouse in Kazakhstan”) costing 1,480 rubles. “Recently, Chinese traditional medicine has been gaining popularity all over the world, thanks to its high efficiency and natural ingredients, biological supplements from China are in steady demand and trust among people who care about their health,” stated the description (punctuation preserved.— “Kommersant”).— This drug has an ovulation-suppressing effect; which makes it possible to use it as a long-acting contraceptive.”

The product card stated that one tablet contains 6 mg of levonorgestrel and 3 mg of quinestrol. A drug with such a combination is not registered in Russia, Lyubov Erofeeva emphasized, but it apparently contains high doses of the synthetic hormone levonorgestrel (an artificial analogue of the female sex hormone progesterone), “which only a doctor can prescribe correctly and without harm to health.” However, the description stated: “Dietary supplement (dietary supplement. -“Kommersant”) is not a medicine." In this case, two application schemes were proposed. The first is two tablets per month; the second - two tablets in the first month and then once a month. It was stated that “the recommended period of use of the drug is 3-5 years,” but the seller still advised to consult a doctor.

“Kommersant” discovered the same drug on Wildberries in the “Libido” section at a price of 500 rubles. Here the description turned out to be more vague. No composition or contraindications were indicated, but it was stated that this is “one of the best options for modern contraception, an analogue of female condoms.”

At the request of Kommersant, Ms. Erofeeva compared the “Chinese pills” with drugs containing levonorgestrel, approved by the Ministry of Health for over-the-counter sale in the Russian Federation. Emergency contraception "Escapelle" (one tablet per package) and "Postinor" (two tablets) contain only 1.5 mg of levonorgestrel, and, according to the instructions, they should be used only in emergency situations, and not at all on an ongoing basis. “For 35 years of their use in Russia, not a single serious complication has been registered. This made it possible to make Escapelle and Postinor over-the-counter in 2024, as in most European countries and the United States. And in this Chinese drug the dosage is four times higher. This is very dangerous to health if used uncontrolled,” explained Lyubov Erofeeva.

Gynecologist of the Doctis telemedicine service Margarita Denisenko noted that the Chinese drug also contains a high dosage of another substance - quinestrol (an estrogenic drug): “When taking these tablets monthly, the daily dosage of levonorgestrel exceeds the dosage of other modern combined oral contraceptives by about ten times, and the dosage estrogen in the form of quinestrol - two to five times. Thus, the risk of undesirable consequences increases.”

Kommersant turned to Roszdravnadzor for comment. The agency responded that it “immediately informed online trading platforms that the sale of these drugs is inadmissible.” In addition, Roszdravnadzor sent information to Roskomnadzor to block pages with such a trade offer.

The Ozon press service told Kommersant that this product is already hidden from the site and is not available for order (“Kommersant” really didn’t find it there). “Product cards placed by sellers undergo multi-stage verification, so this case is an isolated one. Content is moderated using machine learning models, as well as manually. We will check how the seller was able to circumvent our rules, and we will improve the moderation mechanisms so that this does not happen again,” the company assured. They noted that “products in the category of medicines go on sale only after the provision of pharmaceutical licenses and other permits,” and dietary supplements “go on sale only after manual verification of state registration certificates.”

The Wildberries press service said that they use a 24-hour auto-moderation system, “but in isolated cases manual intervention is required to block goods.” Currently, such products are being removed from the marketplace, Kommersant was assured.

Now the Chinese contraceptive drug can still be ordered on the Russian segment of the Internet: Kommersant managed to find it on the websites “Joint purchases in Khakassia and the south of the Krasnoyarsk Territory,” “Irkutsk Yard” and “Obnovochka25” (Primorsky Territory). It is posted, for example, in the “Beauty and Health from China” section. Roszdravnadzor clarified that blocking these resources will take up to two days.

RNC Pharma Development Director Nikolai Bespalov considers the situation with Ozon and Wildberries “an exception to the rule,” but recalls that there have already been similar precedents. “At one time, a story made a lot of noise when components of drugs for the treatment of erectile dysfunction were identified in a dietary supplement for men's health. But this was before the boom in the development of marketplaces and concerned mainly pharmacies,” he says. “For some time, medications based on fly agarics were sold on marketplaces; There have been cases where narcotic substances were sold under the guise of solvents. Of course, this needs to be combated, and marketplaces are primarily interested in this.” However, business is developing at such a pace that “it is not difficult for unscrupulous sellers to disguise certain products as permitted for sale,” says the expert: “The mechanics themselves may be different. Let’s say a product card is created in the “personal hygiene” category with a meaningless product name. But in the description or reviews of the product, the main effect is directly or not indicated. The marketplace can only stop this with the help of some search algorithms, which, of course, can be bypassed if you understand how they work.”

In a conversation with Kommersant, Lyubov Erofeeva emphasized that hormonal contraceptives, as well as hormonal drugs that are used as replacement therapy at the age of menopause, should be prescribed exclusively by a qualified obstetrician-gynecologist or gynecologist-endocrinologist. She pointed out that only a specialist is able to take into account “a very large number of nuances, ranging from absolute and relative contraindications” and give instructions “what to do if something goes wrong.” When purchasing such drugs on their own, women can “damage their body in such a way that it will be difficult to correct the situation later,” Ms. Erofeeva warned.

Natalya Kostarnova, Anatoly Kostylev, Alexander Chernykh

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