The Union Health Ministry’s ban on the retail sale and private manufacture of oxytocin, expected to kick off on September 1, is an extremely ill-thought-out one. The drug, a synthetic version of a human hormone, is a life-saver for women. Doctors use it to induce labour in pregnant women and to stem postpartum bleeding. So critical is its role in maternal health that the World Health Organization recommends it as the drug of choice in postpartum haemorrhage.

The government’s ban ignores this, and is motivated instead by the misuse of the hormone in the dairy industry. Because oxytocin stimulates lactation in cattle, dairy farmers inject the drug indiscriminately to increase milk production. This has spawned several unlicensed facilities that manufacture the drug for veterinary use. It is a problem that needs solving. But the right approach would have been to strengthen regulation, and crack down on illegal production. Much is unknown about the ill-effects of oxytocin on cattle.

One of the concerns was that oxytocin leads to infertility in dairy animals, and some studies show this to be true. It has also been linked to mastitis, a painful inflammation of the udder. Milk consumers worry about exposure to it through dairy products. The science behind some of these claims is unclear. In a Lok Sabha answer in 2015, the National Dairy Research Institute was quoted as saying there was no evidence that oxytocin led to infertility. A 2014 study by researchers at the National Institute of Nutrition concluded that oxytocin content in buffalo milk did not alter with injections.

However, even if the ill-effects of oxytocin are real, a ban is not the answer. Oxytocin is simply too important to Indian women, 45,000 of whom die due to causes related to childbirth each year. A parallel to the situation lies in the misuse of antibiotics in humans and poultry. So heavily are these drugs used that they are causing deadly bacteria to become resistant to them. Yet, despite calls for a complete ban on over-the-counter sale of antibiotics, India has been reluctant to do so.

In much of rural India, more people still die due to a lack of antibiotics than due to antibiotic-resistance. This has swung the cost-benefit ratio against outright bans. In oxytocin’s case, if only a single public sector unit manufactures the drug, as the government plans, this could lead to drug shortages and price hikes. Karnataka Antibiotics & Pharmaceuticals Limited, the drugmaker tasked with manufacturing oxytocin, has been asked to cap the price at ₹16.56 for 1 ml of a five international unit (IU) solution. However, some private manufacturers were selling it for ₹4 until now. Monopolising production will remove the low-price options from the market. Such a situation may benefit cattle, but will put the lives of many women at risk.

courtesy : thehindu.com

 

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Los Angeles, Sep 24: Hollywood star John Cusack on Saturday extended his support to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra and said he stands in solidarity with "anti-fascists everywhere".

Cusack, the star of blockbusters such as "Serendipity", "High Fidelity", "Con Air" and "2012", has been vocal about various global issues on social media.

Taking to Twitter, the 56-year-old actor wrote, "Indian parliament member Rahul Gandhi is walking to Kashmir - from Kerala."

After a user thanked Cusack for supporting Gandhi's campaign, the actor said, "Yes - solidarity - to all anti fascists everywhere!"

The actor had earlier extended support to the farmers' protests against three farm laws and to the students protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

The Congress' Bharat Jodo Yatra will cover 3,570 km in 150 days. It started from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu on September 7 and will conclude in Jammu and Kashmir.

The yatra, which entered Kerala on the evening of September 10, will go through the state covering 450 km, touching seven districts in 19 days before entering Karnataka on October 1.