CHENNAI: The state health department will soon have to spend about Rs 35 lakh more a month for a commonly used drug in labour rooms of government hospitals following the Centre’s new policy to control misuse of hormone injection, oxytocin. The cost of a vial has risen from Rs 3.33 to Rs 17.78.
Amid opposition from several states, the Union health ministry restricted the manufacture and sale of oxytocin to just Karnataka Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Ltd (KAPL), a public sector undertaking, from September 1. The ministry felt the drug was being misused for young girls to expedite puberty, given in large doses to women in labour. Farmers were also found injecting large doses of the drug in cows and buffalos to increase milk production.
Although most states agreed on the need for stringent rules to prevent misuse, they criticised the policy to restrict sale to just one PSU. “It seems wrong at so many levels. We opposed this during a meeting with all states,” said Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation managing director Dr P Umanath. States like Kerala and Maharashtra also opposed the move.
Oxytocin is used to start or continue labour in some women under medical observation, sometimes used to control bleeding after delivery and help milk secretion in breast-feeding.
On an average, the state uses about 2.36 lakh doses of the drug a month in government hospitals. At least 60%-65% of the 9.5 lakh deliveries in TN annually happen in government hospitals. TNMSC, which buys quality generic medications for all government hospitals from the lowest bidder, managed to get it at one of the lowest prices. “While states have been made captive customers of the PSU because if the policy, there is no directive to the PSU asking it to sell the drug at market cost,” Umanath said.
As soon as the government issued a circular about the ban on August 1, TNMSC decided to stock up drugs at least for a few months.
Doctors in the private sector are already complaining about the high cost and delayed supply. “We don’t get the medicine for Rs 3.33 like government hospitals. Yet, we see a price hike of at least Rs 4 more than the most expensive vial made by a multinational,” said senior gynecologist Dr S Srividya. “More than anything else the supply is getting delayed particularly for smaller hospitals and nursing home as the company has to manage orders from across the country.”
Organisations like Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) have also warned about the ramifications of the order. “Oxytocin has no alternative. To curb abuse, violators who sell or buy the drug without prescription must be punished. Restriction of sale will not work,” said FOGSI safe motherhood committee chairperson Dr N Palaniappan.