In April this year, the government made a decision to ban a drug which may end up being bad news for pregnant women in our country. The government has banned the use of Oxytocin, a drug that is vital for women while birthing.
The Union government’s knee-jerk reaction of imposing a ban on the ‘love hormone’ – as oxytocin is popularly known – is a huge setback because the government has essentially prioritised cattle over women in the country. Oxytocin injections are used to ensure that postpartum haemorrhage – one of the most common causes of maternal deaths in the country – is prevented and treated.
Why is Oxytocin necessary during childbirth?
An article in The Ladies Finger sheds light on how the ban was imposed two years after the Himachal Pradesh High Court, in March 2016, observed that the drug was being used to surge milk production among cattle.
“The first use is the induction of labour for women who are overdue. The second use is what they call the active management of third stage of labour, which is recommended routinely to prevent bleeding, and this is a protocol. And what we have been taught, is that little bit of bleeding takes place, normally. But if there is more, then it (oxytocin) is used for the management of PPH, Dr Mira Shiva, co-ordinator of the Initiative for Health and Equity in Society told The Ladies Finger.
How it affects women?
The government’s decision to ban the retail sale of oxytocin will curb the small-scale use to a certain extent. However, along with the ban on imports of the drug, the government also gave the responsibility to produce the drug to a single public sector company, Karnataka Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Ltd (KAPL). This has sent doctors into a tizzy, because it’s highly unlikely that one company would be able to take over production and distribution of the drug that used to be done by 60 big and small companies, The Times of India reported.
The Wire reported that KAPL – the only company with the responsibility to make the drug – began production one day after the ban on July 2. One could call this extremely poor planning as we’re staring at a nationwide shortage of oxytocin that could prove to be fatal for a lot of women.
Call for regulation leads to ban
The HC had asked if the drug’s manufacturing could be regulated. The bench instructed the Centre to establish, within a deadline of three months, an academy that would train all drug regulatory officers both in law enforcement and at the laboratories. The court’s primary concern was that the drug was also being used in the agriculture industry to ripen fruits and vegetables, thus threatening the consumers’ health.
Data shows that the progress made by our healthcare system is undone due to the ban on Oxytocin. In early June, government data traced the decline in India’s Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) – a sharp dive from 167 (per 100,000 live births) in 2011-13 to 130 in 2014-16. However, the ban on oxytocin will invariably lead to the rise in fatalities among women.