Oxytocin—variously called 'love hormone' and 'cuddle hormone'—secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland, is released when people snuggle or bond socially. It is used as a drug to start contraction of the uterus during labour, speed up labour, stop bleeding after delivery and help with breastfeeding.
From July 1, however, the sale of the hormone will be “restricted” in the country because of concerns over its misuse. The ministry of health and family welfare has decided to restrict the manufacture of Oxytocin formulations for domestic use to the public sector only. The import of the drug and its formulations has also been banned.
The sale of the drug has been causing concern because of its widespread misuse in the dairy industry—it is common knowledge that cows and buffaloes are being injected with the drug to speed up the milking process and even increase the milk yield. Studies have found that since the drug is cheaper than fertilisers, it is used to boost production of fruits and vegetables such as pumpkin, watermelon, brinjal and gourd, and make them appear bigger. Oxytocin has also been linked to early onset of puberty among girls.
In a study done in rural Karnataka in 2012, Baneen Karachiwala of the Bengaluru-based Belaku Trust found evidence of the drug Oxytocin being “misused to speed childbirth in overcrowded labour wards”, and even in homes.
The ministry's decision will mean that from July 1, no private manufacturer will be allowed to manufacture the drug for medicinal use. The only company that is now allowed to manufacture it is the Bengaluru-based Karnataka Antibiotics & Pharmaceuticals Limited (KAPL), which is a public sector unit. “The Oxytocin formulations meant for domestic consumption will be supplied by the manufacturer, ie. KAPL, to registered hospitals and clinics in public and private sector directly. Oxytocin, in any form or name, will not be allowed to be sold through retail chemists,” the ministry of health and family welfare has clarified in a statement.
All registered hospitals and clinics in public and private sector have been advised to contact KAPL and place their orders with the company, the statement added.