The Union Health Ministry’s ban on the retail sale and private manufacture of oxytocin will kick off from September 1.
- It has also been dubbed the hug hormone, cuddle chemical, moral molecule, and the bliss hormone due to its effects on behaviour, including its role in love and in female reproductive biological functions in reproduction.
- It is a hormone that is made in the brain, in the hypothalamus. It is transported to, and secreted by, the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain.
- It acts both as a hormone and as a brain neurotransmitter.
- The release of it by the pituitary gland acts to regulate two female reproductive functions: Childbirth and Breast-feeding.
Why is it used?
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.
Why is it being banned?
The government’s ban ignores its critical uses, 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.
- 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.
What needs to be done?
- Even if the ill-effects of oxytocin are real, a ban is not the answer. The right approach is to strengthen regulation, and crack down on illegal production.
- It is simply too important to Indian women, 45,000 of whom die due to causes related to childbirth each year.