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Oxytocin ban: High court seeks answers from the Centre

Copyright: prashantzi / 123RF Stock PhotoWill the government take a u-turn on its decision to revoke ban on hormone drug oxytocin or will the private companies be allowed to produce the life saving drug? The Delhi High Court is seeking answers from the Centre over legal challenges filed against its controversial ban on the hormone drug oxytocin.

The Centre seems to be sticking to plans to restrict the sale of oxytocin from September 1st. This will see Karnataka Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals, Ltd. (KAPL) being given sole licensure to produce and distribute the drug. 

Campaigners and doctors have pleaded with the Centre to overturn the ban, fearing that it will result in shortages of the drug – widely used to stop postpartum hemorrhage, which is the leading cause of maternal mortality in India. Even the Drug and Technical Advisory Body, which previously recommended the ban, has reversed course and called for it to be scrapped.

While the drug is a life-saver for India’s mothers and treats excessive bleeding during childbirth, its dubious use in other sectors has been the subject of criticism. Oxytocin has been used by dairy farmers to increase milk production and even in the sex industry, where it has reportedly been given to child prostitutes to induce puberty.

“Campaigners and doctors have pleaded with the Centre to overturn the ban, fearing that it will result in shortages of the drug.”

To persuade the Centre to change course, a public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Delhi High Court by the All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), a network of non-government organisations which advocates for access to essential medicines in India. The DHC has asked the Centre to respond to AIDAN’s plea. The Centre has requested more time to file a counter affidavit. A similar plea by drugmaker Mylan is expected to be heard in the coming week.

As the date when the ban will come into force approaches, further challenges are likely in a bid to get the Centre to change course. At this juncture, it seems unlikely that this will be the case. For the sake of India’s mothers, efforts must be undertaken to ensure that supplies of the drug are sufficient to meet demand.

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