Oxytocin

Oxytocin is a neuro-hormone naturally released in large amounts by the posterior pituitary gland in mammals to induce contractions of the uterus during labour and stimulate the ejection of milk. It is a facilitator for childbirth and breastfeeding that promotes maternal nurturing behaviour. The origin of the word oxytocin is oxutokia in Greek which means quick birth.


Obtained from oxen or prepared synthetically, 1953 onwards, oxytocin began to be widely administered in obstetric practice for induction of labour, the control of bleeding following delivery, and the stimulation of milk letdown reflex.


Along the way people got the bright idea of indiscriminately using oxytocin (OT) injections on milch animals – not only during delivery of a calf, but daily. Five minutes before milking 5 ml of OT is injected twice a day so that milk flows fast out of the udder.

Ever since BWC got to know that cows and she-buffaloes were being regularly subjected to painful contractions of their uteruses every day, we have been speaking against its use, and wrote to the government too.

The Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare eventually took strict measures to stop the misuse of oxytocin: July (extended to September) 2018 onwards only KAPL (Karnataka Antibiotics & Pharmaceuticals Ltd) a public sector company would manufacture and supply it directly to registered veterinary hospitals and clinics within India. Initially no retail sale, import or private manufacture of oxytocin was permitted, but later on the recommendation of the Drug Technical Advisory Board to “ensure the availability for human use” its retail sale through chemists was allowed.

Following a case by drug makers like Mylan and Neon Laboratories and patient activist group All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) the Delhi High Court in December 2018 had quashed the ban on various grounds including that it lacked scientific basis.

In March 2019 the IMA (Indian Medical Association) joined private drug makers of oxytocin who were opposing the government in an ongoing case at the Supreme Court to ban private drug makers from making and selling oxytocin. It was then revealed that Karnataka Drugs Control Department on 10 October 2018 found a batch of oxytocin injections manufactured by KAPL to have failed quality tests. However, it should not be forgotten that between 2015 and2018 CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation) also found 18 batches of oxytocin manufactured by private drug makers to have failed quality tests.


In August 2019 a 41 page order by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court raised more questions. The Court particularly wanted to know whether the object of curbing the clandestine manufacture and unregulated use of oxytocin could be achieved by imposing a ban on the manufacture by private sector companies. The matter was also referred to a larger bench.


Misuse


In 2014 with the aim of curbing misuse of oxytocin to boost milk production and plump up the size of vegetables and fruits, the Ministry of Health had also prohibited its retail sale. Formulations meant for veterinary use could be sold to veterinary hospitals only. Both the Food & Drug Adulteration and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Acts forbid its rampant use. Although the government has labelled it as a schedule H-drug requiring a prescription, it was somehow sold to and used by dairies to increase the flow of milk. They say it does not actually increase the milk output, but merely makes it flow out faster.


The side effects on the poor animals being given this injection day in and day out are tremendous. The reproductive systems of the cows and she-buffaloes get irreversibly damaged and the animals are abandoned in a couple of years.


Oxytocin severely harms the animals as well as the humans who regularly consume milk obtained from such hormone injected cattle. There is no doubt that children and adults who consume milk are adversely affected.

In 2015 Beauty Without Cruelty again created an awareness about the rampant misuse of oxytocin in dairies following which the Centre’s Department of Animal Husbandry reminded all State and UT Commissioners/Directors of Animal Husbandry of their advisory sent in 2014 to undertake an awareness campaign to apprise the public in general and dairy owners in particular of harmful effects of oxytocin in milch animals. They were also advised to build a close liaison with the Drug Controllers of their states to check the clandestine use of oxytocin by dairies.


Evidence Disregarded


In June 2013 the Mid Day publication came out with their remarkable evidence-clinching investigation carried out over a period of two months, detailing how in Mumbai’s tabelas, female buffaloes were illegally being administered oxytocin injections in their necks twice a day. Oxytocin is the generic name, whereas Pitocin and Syntocinon are brand names of the hormone drug that causes the uterus to contract.


The ban on the sale of this drug without a prescription is unfortunately not implemented. Oxytocin is sold in plastic bottles without labels and called doodh ki dawa. A bottle of 20 doses of 5 ml each is as cheap as Rs 30/-.


Samples of milk collected from dairies that used the doodh ki dawa injections, tested positive by showing up in the milk. Meanwhile, many doctors of Mumbai say there is an increase in hormone imbalance complaints among children and that they have been treating girls for premature puberty and boys with breast enlargement problems. This, no doubt, is due to them consuming hormone-laden milk.


A week later, when the Food and Drugs Administration team raided the tabelas where Mid-Day had exposed the use of Oxytocin, they found no evidence of it. The FDA say they’ve never found Oxytocin in milk but if found guilty, the owners will be punished under the Food Safety and Standards Act; and that they will search for the supplier as part of their investigation into the matter!

In October 2019 the Police upon laying a trap caught 3 persons who were regularly supplying oxytocin to dairy farmers. This led them to find oxytocin stored in barrels in a godown in Kalyan. It seems hundreds of residents of Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai have unknowingly been consuming adulterated milk for at least 4 years.

A year later in April 2020 a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, called pitocin, was found to be injected into cattle amid the lockdown owing to lack of availability of fodder in Hyderabad.


Give it up!


The President of the Indian Medical Association’s Pune Chapter has stated that “Oxytocin hormone used for the purpose of increasing milk yield in cattle can have side-effects on cattle as well as on humans. It can cause ovarian diseases in women and could damage seminal vesicles in men, which may lead to impotency”.

 

Good reasons to immediately give up milk and milk products. May be women need to stop and think about how they would feel if twice a day their bodies were injected to go into labour-mode and have contractions, and secrete milk. Unless and until we imagine ourselves in the position of the animal victim, we will not be able to appreciate what it feels like to have one’s body be considered a commodity for the beneficial use of another species.


Incidentally, the National Guidelines on Human Milk Banking (under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) do not state that animal milk is the second best option when a newborn is unable to receive his or her mother’s milk, but donated human milk is the second best option.


Solution
Oxytocin is produced in large quantities by about 70 companies in India. They sell a small percentage legally. The rest is clandestinely sold for which there is no record. Off and on huge seizures consisting of thousands of ampoules occur. But, injecting milch cattle with oxytocin is the norm in dairies. Since the government is unable to stop its misuse may be they should take up manufacture and distribution themselves and strictly monitor its administration.
Page last updated on 11/11/21