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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Bengaluru, May 13: The Karnataka government on Thursday announced floating a global tender for procuring two crore COVID-19 vaccines owing to supply shortage.

Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said a Task Force has been set up to oversee the preparation for a probable third wave of COVID-19.

"The state has placed a purchase order for three crore doses of vaccines, two crore doses of Covishield and one crore doses of Covaxin.

We are floating global tenders for an additional two crores," Yediyurappa told reporters here.

He was briefing them about the various measures initiated by his government to deal with the pandemic and improving the health infrastructure in the state.

On the occasion, he said the government was appointing Prof Kang as an adviser on vaccination strategy.

"She Prof Kang is a member of several advisory committees for the World Health Organisation (WHO), mainly related to research and the use of vaccines," he added.

According to Yediyurappa, so far 1.10 crore doses have been supplied by the Centre, of which 99.5 lakh are Covishield vaccines and 10.9 lakh are Covaxin.

He said that 14.87 lakh beneficiaries have completed 6 weeks after taking the first dose of Covishield vaccine and are eligible for second one, whereas 5.10 lakh beneficiaries have completed four weeks after taking the first dose of Covaxin.

Thus, a total of 19.97 lakh people are eligible for second dose as on today.

The state government had on Wednesday announced suspension of the vaccination drive for people between the age group of 18 and 44 years due to the shortage of vaccine.

It said the available stock will be utilised to vaccinate people who are due for second dose.

The Chief Minister also explained the various measures adopted since the outbreak of COVID in the state last year.

He claimed that the recent lockdown-like restrictions brought down the infections in the state from over 50,000 to less than 40,000 now.

To meet the increased oxygen requirement, the government decided to increase the supply of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO), massive scaling of localised generation capacity through oxygen generators and large scale procurement of concentrators and cylinders.