Medicos demand rules for controlling usage of placenta in medicine

Updated: May 25, 2019, 07:56 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty

Foundation writes to health ministry after noting rampant, unregulated usage of the temporary organ in the pharmaceutical industry

Medicos demand rules for controlling usage of placenta in medicine
The placenta is a large organ that develops during pregnancy. Blood from the mother passes through the placenta, filtering oxygen, glucose and other nutrients for the baby via the umbilical cord. Representation pic/Getty Images

Seeing the ugly origins of the procurement of human placenta, which is used in medicine, as well as beauty treatments for anti-ageing and rejuvenating the skin, medicos have raised concerns regarding the lack of regulations about its obtainment and usage. Seeking proper rules for the temporary organ, which is used for making medicine and cosmetics sans proper permission from mothers, the All Food and Drugs Licence Holders Foundation (AFDLHF) wrote to the Union Health Ministry and the Drug Controller General last week.

'Give legal guidelines'

The placenta is a large organ that develops during pregnancy. The umbilical cord connects the placenta to the baby. Blood from the mother passes through the placenta, filtering oxygen, glucose and other nutrients for the baby via the umbilical cord. Several dermatologists and cosmetologists across the state use this organ in anti-ageing treatments and for rejuvenating the skin; its stem cells are also of high value as they can help in the treatment of several critical blood-related health issues.

In its letter, AFDLHF has urged the ministry and Drug Controller General to come up with legal guidelines to control this rampant usage of the temporary organ in the pharmaceutical industry. AFDLHF's letter states, "According to the information we have received, human organ placenta is being used in making medicines without the knowledge of parents. It is cheating and injustice with the public. The investigation of this subject is urgently needed in the public interest and we demand that it be examined."

Ethically illegal

They have also alleged there is no proper legal process to dispose it. Abhay Pandey, president of the foundation said, "If these pharmaceutical companies are selling medicines with the content of placentas, then they have to be procuring it from hospitals in an unregulated way. After a delivery or an abortion, the family members presume that the placenta has been thrown. None of them are told about how preservation of the organ can help to fight several health issues. This is an unregulated, booming business."

Medicos have further stated that usage of placenta is not only ethically illegal but also violates biomedical waste guidelines. "Placenta is considered as biomedical waste, which is disposed after the delivery of the child. Using it for making medicines is illegal. Even if the companies get approval from the families, there is no clause in the biomedical waste law which states whether it can be used further," said Dr. Nikhil D Datar, senior consultant, obstetrician and gynaecologist.

Risk of infection

While the placenta is full of nutrients, minerals, amino acids and proteins that help in the treatment of skin issues like acne, rosacea, dull skin and ageing skin. But it also involves the risk of getting infected with other diseases. "You don't know if the foetus had any kind of infection or an infectious disease. If the infected placenta is used for making medicines or cosmetics, it could get transferred to other patients," added Pandey.

He state health department also confirmed the usage of this temporary organ is illegal and all hospitals need to dispose it as biomedical waste. Dr. Sanjeev Kamble, director, Directorate of Health Services said, "All the hospitals are instructed to dispose of the placenta according to the biomedical waste guidelines. All public hospitals follow the same rules. So far, we haven't any complaints regarding it."

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