Right prescription: lifting the ban on oxytocin


About Oxytocin

  • Oxytocin is a life-saving drug used to stem post-partum bleeding among new mothers
  • Because of this, it had been listed by both the World Health Organization and the Health Ministry as an essential medicine
  • Around 45,000 women die from post-partum complications in India each year, and in 38% of the cases the reason is haemorrhaging
  • Without the easy availability of inexpensive oxytocin, efforts to stem the maternal mortality epidemic could have suffered a costly setback.

Observations of the court:

  • The court found that the government had failed to weigh the danger the ban posed to thousands of young mothers
  • What is more, it had failed to show that the drug was widely misused for veterinary purposes, the purported reason behind the order
  • The most damning observation in the judgment is that the Centre focussed on the health of milch animals, without considering the well-being of women
  • This was despite the fact that all statutory bodies, including the Drugs Technical Advisory Board, had advised against a ban.

Way ahead:

  • It is time for a post-mortem of how health policy is made, because that is the only way to safeguard the right to health of Indian citizens.


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