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Promotion after regulation

Prof. S. Balasubramanian
Wednesday, August 17, 2022, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Government of India especially PM Modi has shown interest in ancient and Vedic system of medicine particularly Ayurveda in the recent times. He has started promoting it and ever willing to support that good old system of treatment. Well, depending on the nature for treating our diseases by herbal medicine is a welcome step, particularly in the context of widespread anxiety, suspicion and fear about the side effects of modern chemical based medicines. But a lot of preliminary works has to be done to fill the gap in the proper use of indigenous systems.  

Ancient treasure of knowledge
First of all we must agree one thing that knowledge is not confined to one race or region. It is wide spread and deep depends on the environment one lives. Thus similar to Himalayan mountain  and its treasure  of medicinal plants in North India, Western Ghats in South India also got equal, if not more, wealth of medicinal plants and subsequent knowledge about its use among South Indian  also.  Hence, Govt of India should promote Siddha system of medicine also. Unani system, though originated in Middle East, developed and accepted by people in India during Mogul rule. Hence, all these three systems - Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani - should be developed and promoted at the same time without any discrimination between them. Our goal should be the best treatment to the patients at low cost and pain irrespective of system of treatment. Thus an integrated system should be developed along with even allopathic system of medicine.

How to proceed?
All the old manuscripts whether they are in palm leaf or cloth or stone or wood should be preserved first and digitalized. They should be published along with meaning and interpretations with the help of a team of experts, old practitioners of these systems and modern scientists. Of course Central government and many State governments are doing it through their various arms like universities and research labs, it should be speeded up and completed soon before old manuscripts are missed or damaged.

Then the medicine described in the texts should be prepared as per the method mentioned in the scripts as far as possible on a pilot scale and subjected to analytical, pharmacological and toxicological studies. Now these works are going on here and there by individuals and there is no scientific evaluation of the results of those studies and confirmation of results claimed in those research papers. This work must be coordinated by some agency created specifically for the purpose. A research done pain taking with lot of energy, money and time should not go waste as at present.

Once an herb’s or formulation’s value is proved in research that should be verified by clinical trials in multicentre studies. These are now left to the individuals or medicine manufacturing companies and their claims are always looked upon with suspicion. A pucca foolproof study akin to allopathic research is yet to be established for indigenous system’s herbs and formulations. So government should take over these works on a large scale, publish the results to satisfy and get the confidence of western and developed world. Remember in the absence of such works our indigenous medicines are not recognized by western countries and they are sold there in super markets as food and nutraceuticals or cosmeceutical and not as medicine in pharmacies. Hence, don’t be proud of our exports of indigenous medicines for millions of dollars and fool yourself!

GMP for herbal medicine manufacture
Good manufacturing practice (GMP) promoted by WHO, US FDA and other developed countries must be followed for the manufacture of indigenous system of medicines also. It is easier to preach than practice, we know, as even for allopathic drugs manufacture we are struggling to follow GMP. But to get recognition and respect for our Siddha and Ayurveda products we must follow GMP, otherwise they will be confined to the four borders of India and we can continue with our lecture on its greatness to our own people. How and where to start this work? We must first create technocrats for the work, similar to the way we did for allopathic system. That was an effective successful and proven method hence we need not have any hesitation to follow now.

That is to say to use pharmacy graduates for the manufacture of indigenous medicines, similar to allopathic medicine manufacture. Why pharmacy graduates? Why not others? It is because -  already they have the knowledge of identifying and testing of herbal raw materials by studying a subject called ‘Pharmacognosy’ which deals with medicinal plants and not taught in any other course.  Pharmacy graduates alone studying medicine [Formulation] manufacturing techniques during their 4 years course. Thus they can prepare indigenous formulations using modern technique into tablets, capsules, liquid orals or external use preparations. Again we insist that formulation techniques are taught only to pharmacy students. At present most of the analytical procedure for herb’s identification are carried out by pharmacy students during their 4 years practical classes and hence they will be knowledgeable than any other graduate who learn it at a later date from pharmacy books. Hence, it is wise to use already available manpower for promoting indigenous medicines. Will the government of India note it and do the needful?

For improving existing setup
To start with we can use existing pharmacy graduates in the preparation and analysis of herbal medicines. Even here M. Pharm graduates with Pharmacognosy specialization are more suitable. The long term solution is to start B. Pharm (Ayurveda) and B. Pharm (Siddha) courses just like that of D. Pharm Siddha course we started for dispensing Siddha medicine. The concept is same when Diploma course was felt essential for procuring, storing, dispensing and accounting of indigenous medicine the same logic can be extended and applied for manufacturing and analysis of indigenous medicines. Tamil Nadu govt has recently announced its intension to start Siddha university in Tamil Nadu where B. Pharm [Siddha] course can be started from the beginning. Meanwhile M. Pharm graduates can be appointed as faculties there for whom industrial experience can be prescribed as desirable qualification if not essential qualification. As of now traditional Vaidya or BSMS or BAMS or BUMS doctors are supervising the manufacture of indigenous medicines according to the procedures in ancient books. They find it difficult to follow the procedures given in those books like using specific number of cow-dung cakes to achieve particular high temperature in the preparation of Bhasma [Ashes] or Senthura [Mercuric amalgams with metals].

It is because their syllabus does not cover use of modern equipment and its operation. That apart using doctors for manufacturing medicines is not wise as their expertise, time and knowledge in diagnosis and treatment of diseases goes waste. Peoples used to say “history repeats itself”. It is true, as what happened a Century ago to allopathic physicians is waiting to happen in the case of doctors of indigenous system of medicines. Yes, leave the job of medicine manufacture to the right people - the pharmacist - as done by allopathic physicians of last Century.

Pharmacy graduates by virtue of their knowledge - both theory and practical - can handle modern equipment in lieu of old equipment and methods and get a neat finished product. Only when these processes are carried out we can think of implementing GMP. Unless we demonstrate and prove our entire methods western world will not recognize and respect our ancient systems and saints.

Will our PMO bring it to the notice of our honorable PM who is spending his valuable time and energy for the promotion of Ayurveda? To bear fruit for his efforts these basic steps should be first fulfilled, we believe.

(Author is Ex-President, Indian Pharmacy Graduates Association, Madurai, Tamil Nadu)


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