Ayurveda is now a global phenomenon. There is a lot of research going on in the field of Ayurvedic medicine development. BE’s Saptarshi Deb spoke to M.M. Rao, Director, Central Ayurveda Research Institute for Drug Development, Kolkata, on the institute’s role in the development of Ayurvedic drugs.
Q) In an age chiefly dominated by allopathic treatment and medicine, why will people turn to Ayurvedic treatment?
A) Ayurveda, ‘the science of life’ is a 5,000-year-old Indian system of medicine that has truly stood the test of time. Ayurveda stands on certain basic principles and reinforce them with observations and researches. The aim of Ayurveda includes keeping a subject healthy in a healthy state and also to cure diseases. Ayurveda emphasises on the ‘prevention is better than cure’ principle. The approach of this system is not only to cure the disease. It also entails taking care of the subject as a whole.
Ayurveda has no contradiction with other contemporary medical sciences. If you see the history of drug development, most of the wonderful and life-saving drugs have been invented from medicinal plants. Allopathic treatment is mainly used in emergency conditions, in case of infectious diseases and surgeries as the allopathic system is well-acquainted with modern technologies whereas Ayurveda is useful in primary healthcare, in prevention of chronic, progressive, degenerative and lifestyle-oriented diseases.
Globally, the average life span of human beings is increasing due to control of communicable diseases and therefore degenerative and progressive diseases are gaining an upper hand. In this area, Ayurveda has a tremendous role to play. Additionally, Ayurvedic medicines are based on medicinal plants and other organic products.
Q) Please mention a few common ailments that can be better treated with Ayurveda and why?
A) First, Ayurveda is about taking care of the whole subject with its holistic and comprehensive approach. However, in certain health conditions, Ayurveda has better treatment protocols as in the case of autoimmune diseases (Rheumatoid arthritis, SLE), degenerative diseases (Osteoarthritis), immunomediated diseases ( Psoriasis, Lichen Planus), ano-rectal diseases (Piles, Fissure, Fistula, Polyps), gastrointestinal disorders ( Peptic ulcer syndrome, gastritis, dyspepsia, constipation, irregular bowel syndrome), renal calculus, certain dermatological conditions, respiratory diseases (bronchial asthma, interstitial lung diseases, recurrent respiratory tract infections), neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s disease), Type 2 diabetes mellitus, gynecological and reproductive disorders, hepato-biliary disorders and many more.
Q) What are the significant achievements of this research institute and please take us through your ongoing research?
A) Central Ayurveda Research Institute for Drug Development (CARIDD), Kolkata is a unique research centre in Kolkata under the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS), Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India having mandate for new drug development as well as for scientifically validating classical formulations. This institute has added new drugs like AYUSH-64 (anti-malarial drug), AYUSH-56 (anti-epileptic drugs) and around 16 drugs on reproductive and child health in the recent years. This institute is having facilities for drug research as well as for clinical research. The chemistry department of our institute has isolated marker compounds from indigenous medicinal plants, obtained patent on anticancer activity and also on psoriasis. Presently, the institute is conducting different pre-clinical and clinical trials for new drug development and also undertaking revalidation of classical drugs in the light of modern sciences. Collaborative studies on geriatric health care and filariasis are also being undertaken.
Q) Is availability of Ayurvedic medicinal inputs a challenge in manufacturing Ayurvedic drugs?
A) It is always a challenge to manufacture Ayurvedic drugs in the present situation. The plant resources and other raw materials are gradually decreasing and demand is gaining by about 7.5% every year. So, minimising this gap is the prime challenge. Ayurvedic manufacturing has now shifted from home-scale to large-scale and modern technologies are being adopted. GMP certification for manufacturing of Ayurvedic drugs is now mandatory in India. Getting quality raw materials is an issue and most of the manufacturers are going for organised good agricultural practices for ensuring their input.
Q) How do you evaluate the governmental policy on Ayurvedic drug development? Is there any scope for improvement?
A) Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India has set up a high level committee named ‘Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia Committee’ and developed Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia of India ( API) and Ayurvedic Formulary of India ( AFI) for manufacturing drugs. Every state has a ‘Drug Control Authority’, ‘Medicinal Plants Board’ and ‘Drug Testing Laboratory’ for licensing and regulation. The government may think of amending the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and there is always scope of improvement as there are various grey areas including misleading advertisement and lack of regulations.
Q) India has been the traditional home of Ayurveda. But internationally, is there any significant research in the field of Ayurveda?
A) This has been realised by the government and it has been collaborating with many universities and research organisations in India and abroad. CCRAS is the apex body of the ministry for research in Ayurveda and has 30 centres all over India. The Ministry of AYUSH has initiated international cooperation with South East Asian countries, African countries, the US, and with European countries like Germany and Russia.