Updated: Mon, 13 Jan 2014 10:00:00 GMT | By The Hindu Business Line

Govt to clamp down on abuse of vet drug

Oxytocin, which stimulates milk secretion, is often injected into cows and buffaloes twice a day, affecting the health of the animal and the milk subsequently consumed by humans

Govt to clamp down on abuse of vet drug (© Reuters)

Mumbai: The rampant use of oxytocin, injected into cows and buffaloes to get them to produce more milk, has come in for severe criticism. The Government is set to curb its abuse, in the interest of animal and human health.

A series of steps, including streamlining the sale of the drug’s active ingredient to licensed manufacturers, ensuring the sale of the final drug on prescriptions, besides making sure distribution takes place only through veterinary hospitals, and increased surveillance and raids on “clandestine manufacturers”, are some of the recommendations made recently by the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB).

The recommendations have been made to the Health Ministry, supported by others, including the Agriculture Ministry, an official told Business Line.

Concern over oxytocin abuse is not new, and the drug is already limited to being sold only on a doctor’s prescription. Used to facilitate labour contractions and prevent bleeding after delivery, the drug also stimulates milk secretion.

The drug is often injected into cows and buffaloes twice a day, affecting the health of the animal and the milk subsequently consumed by humans.

Sometimes referred to as a “feel-good” hormone, given its links to positive emotional responses, the drug is also used in humans. But the veterinary abuse of oxytocin forced the Health Ministry to disallow its bulk sale, and oxytocin injection was limited to single sealed blister-packs.

“In spite of the above provisions, the reports of manufacture and sale of the drug in clandestine way in large quantities and its misuse by the farmers or dairy owners have been received from time to time and the matter was raised on various forums. The manufacture and sale of the drug with or without a licence for such clandestine activity is an offence under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940,” the DTAB meeting recorded.

There are several third party producers who buy the bulk ingredient and make the final medicine for larger companies.

Though it is estimated to be a small Rs 15-crore market, there are over 50 players in the small and medium sector, observes food and drug regulatory expert D.B. Anantha Narayana, adding that unscrupulous elements could be diverting the product before it reached the hospital.

With the clandestine activity continuing across the country unabated, the Health Ministry even recommended a ban on the veterinary use of the drug, late last year. But with the Agriculture Ministry stating that the drug had its veterinary uses, it agreed to tighten the screws on manufacture and distribution, backed by intensified monitoring.

And that’s where Government is going to face its real challenge, in terms of enforcing the restricted supply of this veterinary drug.

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