June 29, 2023

Covid19’s Toll on Reproductive Health Products in Kenya

By Maisha Meds

Even now, we’re continuing to unravel the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on women. In a study published in BMJ Open, researchers showed how Covid deaths were associated with a decrease in sales of sexual and reproductive health products, including pregnancy tests and contraceptives. 

Those drops in sales also came with an increase in over-the-counter prices, not to mention lower revenues for pharmacies.

The study adds to a growing body of research showing how access to contraceptives declined during the pandemic in low- and middle-income countries. Earlier evidence also revealed that unintended pregnancies went up in Kenya during the pandemic.

“Our finding from pharmacies, a highly accessible avenue for women to obtain [sexual and reproductive health] products, is particularly concerning in the context of the diminishing reproductive rights of women across the globe, but also represents an opportunity to increase … access in times of crises,” wrote the authors from UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and Maisha Meds, a digital health organization that increases access to care via private pharmacies and clinics across Africa.

The authors wrote that strong policies and measures can ensure continued access to reproductive health services, even during times of crisis, sudden inflation, and supply chain disruptions. One example may include subsidies that “stop negative feedback loops” where pharmacies raise prices to keep their revenues afloat. 

And the benefits may not only be limited to global emergencies, the authors wrote. 

“These policies could further have positive spillovers on women’s access to [sexual and reproductive health] products outside of times of crisis,” they said.