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Oxytocin: Behind the ban on the controversial hormone drug

By Nimeshika Jayachandran

The government has decided to push the date on banning the manufacture and sale of Oxytocin to September. It was earlier announced that a ban on the manufacturing and sale of the drug for domestic use by private sector companies would be effective from July 1.

In June, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare declared that from July 1, the drug would no longer be freely manufactured and sold by any private sector companies, with Karnataka Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Limited (KAPL), a public sector company, being slated as the lone manufacturer of the hormone.

However, the ministry is now extending the deadline for the ban to September, after considering that KAPL may not be able to meet the demands for the drug across the country on such a short notice period.

“Oxytocin…has long been the subject of controversy”

Oxytocin, the hormone drug, has long been the subject of controversy after it was discovered that dairy farmers were injecting cows with the drug to artificially increase the production of milk. Furthermore, shocking reports of young girls being forcefully injected with the drug to induce puberty and then being forced into sex work also called for stricter regulations of the drug’s availability.

Sreenath RN, Head of the Research and Development Department at KAPL, told TNM that the recent announcement was made after taking into consideration the time it would take for the organisation to adjust to the demand for the drug.

“This two-month period can be considered an overlap period,” he said.

“Not only does it give us time to chalk out a plan which will allow us to be able to meet the demand for the drug, but it’s also a way for us to determine what roadblocks we might face in delivering the drug to remote parts of the country and overcome those factors so that patient health is not compromised,” he added.

He further explained that unlike private sector companies, public sector companies (such as KAPL) only manufacture drugs once they receive an order.

“In the private sector, they may have a supply of oxytocin ready to deliver as soon as an order for it comes in. However, we only manufacture it as when orders come in,” he said.

It takes 15 days to produce a batch of oxytocin. “We have to ascertain the sterility of the product and ensure that it passes all the necessary checks, then we can deliver as needed,” he added.

The drug is extensively used in medical practice during delivery to induce contractions in pregnant women as well as to control bleeding post delivery. It is also given to women to stimulate uterine contractions after an incomplete miscarriage.

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