Pune police bust racket involved in illegal sale of oxytocin hormone

The Pune City Police’s Crime Branch has busted an organised racket involved in the illegal sale of oxytocin hormone in the city.

The police have seized around 290 boxes containing a large number of oxytocin vials and ampoules worth over Rs 53 lakh in the illicit market and have arrested five persons. A coordinated probe has also been launched into the supply and distribution chain of the racket.

Notably, oxytocin is a key hormone for humans because of the role it plays in reproduction, childbirth, and post-childbirth activities. In 2018, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Union Government restricted the manufacture of oxytocin formulations for domestic use to the public sector only. It also banned the import of oxytocin and its formulations.

The restriction was enforced primarily because of reports of its heavy misuse in dairy cattle to increase milk yield and the suspected adverse effects on the health of the cattle and the humans who consume that milk.

The restriction placed by the government was legally challenged at the time, citing a ‘lack’ of scientific data and the criticality of the hormone for its medical use in humans.

The sleuths from the Anti-Narcotics Cell of the Crime Branch Saturday received a tip-off that some persons were selling oxytocin vials and ampoules to cattle owners in Pune and surrounding areas. The racket was operating from a shed in Kalwad Vasti in Lohegaon.

Sleuths from the Crime Branch and officials from the FDA conducted a raid Saturday afternoon, and the details of the action were shared with the media Sunday.

The five persons arrested at the time have been identified as Sameer Qureshi, 29, a resident of Kalwad Vasti who hails from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh; Bishwajeet Sudhanshu Jana, 44, and Mangal Kananlal Giri, 29, both from East Medinipur district in West Bengal; Satyajeet Maheshchandra Mondal, 22, and Shrimanta Manoranjan Haldar, 32, both from South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal.

“We have seized 289 boxes of oxytocin of which 63 boxes contained 100 large vials each of oxytocin, 33 boxes contained 200 vials each of oxytocin of a different size, and the remaining boxes contained small vials and ampoules of oxytocin. We have also seized other formulations of oxytocin. The estimated value of bottled oxytocin and other substances is around Rs 53 lakh in the illicit market. We are now probing the supply and distribution chain of these racketeers,” said a Crime Branch officer who is part of the investigation.

A press statement issued by the Pune Police in this regard read, “Drug Inspector Suhas Sawant has stated in his FIR that, that while Oxytocin is a key hormone for humans and has crucial usage during childbirth, its use in dairy animals has serious adverse effects on humans. Sawant has stated that consumption of milk from the animals which have been administered oxytocin can possibly lead to hearing and visual impairment, digestive issues, serious complications in pregnant women and newborns, respiratory issues, and skin ailments. Based on the complaint filed by Sawant, an offence has been registered.”

The police have invoked the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act along with Indian Penal Code Sections 328 (Causing hurt by means of poison), 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 175 (Omission to produce document to public servant), 272 (Adulteration of food or drink intended for sale) and 274 (Adulteration of drugs), among others.

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