23, Aug 2019
Prelims level : Governance- Policies, Science & Technology- Medicine and Pharmaceutical Mains level : GS-II- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources. GS-III- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
- The Supreme Court referred the matter to a larger bench to decide on whether it would be in public interest to impose a ban on private companies to manufacture the controversial but life-saving drug Oxytocin and restrict its manufacture to a single public sector undertaking.
What is Oxytocin:
- Oxytocin, is a uterine stimulant hormone, prescribed for the initiation of uterine contractions and induction of labour in women, as well as stimulation of contractions during labour.
- It is also used to help abort the foetus in cases of incomplete abortion or miscarriage, and to control bleeding after childbirth. It may be used for breast engorgement. However, it is also used widely in the dairy industry, agriculture and horticulture to boost production.
- Oxytocin is included as a lifesaving drug in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).
Misuse of Oxytocin:
- The reason for the ban is the misuse of oxytocin in dairy animals, like buffaloes, to increase milk production.2016 Himachal Pradesh High Court judgment, which said daily oxytocin injections made cattle barren and reduced their lifespans. In addition, it claimed that drinking milk from oxytocin-treated cattle led to male impotence, early puberty among women and cancers.
What government did:
- The health ministry had in April 2018 notified a ban on private drug manufacturers from producing Oxytocin.
- The government had restricted its imports and decided to confine manufacturing to Karnataka Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Ltd, a government company.
Why ban on private drug manufacturers from producing Oxytocin.
- Oxytocin can be overused in the absence of oversight by a veterinary doctor. At high doses, it can hurt animals. Also, when untrained dairy farmers are administering the injection, it can cause pain for the animals.
- The twin issues which arise for consideration are on the one hand,
- The Unregulated and clandestine manufacture of the drug Oxytocin, which is reportedly misused in milch animals; andOn the other hand, the continued supply of an essential lifesaving drug, which is used as the first line drug for prevention and treatment of postpartum haemorrhage at the time of childbirth.”
What Court is trying look:
- According to the SC, the bench should look into various aspects like whether the government notification will result in monopoly, if the restriction on its manufacturing be in public interest, whether the government’s decision would achieve the objective and purpose of preventing the unregulated and illegal use of the drug, among others.
Is Ban the Only solution?
- No, given the drug’s importance to both human and veterinary medicine, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board recommended against a ban, advocating better surveillance instead. A ban might lead to scarcity and high drug prices.