Order on Oxytocin: public health activists jubilant

The much-awaited decision of the Delhi High Court on Friday, quashing a notification by the Centre banning the manufacture, sale or import of Oxytocin by private pharma manufacturers, has been hailed as a major victory by public health activists who had raised the alarm about how a potential shortage in the supply of Oxytocin can seriously impact maternal outcomes in labour rooms across the country.

Oxytocin is a highly essential drug used in labour rooms, to check post-partum haemorrhage, a major cause of maternal mortality in the country.

The said notification by the Centre, banning manufacture of Oxytocin by private drug firms from July 1 and banning all retail sales of the drug, came in April. The reason cited was the ‘rampant misuse’ of the drug in the dairy industry.

It also vested the monopoly of manufacturing and directly supplying the drug to all registered public and private sector hospitals in the country to Karnataka Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (KAPL).

Kerala Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (KFOG) and many public health activists had raised serious concerns that a restricted supply or a shortfall in supply of this life-saving drug can have on maternal outcomes, especially in rural areas.

The Centre later deferred the deadline when the ban would be effected and in August, lifted the ban on retail sales. However, the ban on manufacture of the drug by private pharma firms remained.

On August 16, when All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), an NGO, approached the Delhi HC with a PIL challenging the Centre’s decision, KFOG had also impleaded in the case.

“We pointed out that the ban had been imposed by the Centre without ensuring that the supply of a drug of such critical nature would not be affected. Also, the drug, which was earlier available in the market for less than ₹5 had been priced by KAPL at nearly ₹18,” said K.V. Babu, a Kerala-based public health activist.

Delhi HC ruling

On Friday, the court said the Centre’s notification had been “both unreasonable and arbitrary” and that the government “did not adequately weigh in” the effect that restricting the manufacture and supply of a life-saving drug can have on the lives of young mothers. It also noted that the Centre’s decision did not have any scientific basis.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 5:55:47 PM |

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