Role of Ayurveda in Indian healthcare

Pradeep Multani, President, PHD Chamber, traces down the role of Ayurveda in Indian healthcare and the need to further promote it

Our nation has proved that we have an inherent strength from ‘Ayurveda: a Science of life.’ It integrates every facet of existence including physical, psychological, spiritual and social. It explains what is beneficial and what is harmful to live, how happy life can be achieved and miserable life thawed — all these important queries and lifespan allied issues are opulently and ardently conferred in Ayurveda.

AYUSH industry was brought within the ambit of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act in 1964, it has been subject to very light regulation. Under the 1964 provisions of law, the industry can manufacture any product based on substances mentioned in traditional books listed under the legislation’s First Schedule.

Further, hitting out at typical medicine approved on the basis of clinical evidence is often a singular entity, whether chemical or biological. However, various Ayurvedic drugs are concoctions of two or more ingredients. This is because unlike the pharma industry, which also derives some of its active ingredients from plants, the AYUSH industry does not isolate its active ingredients from its plant-based sources; rather, it uses the entire leaf or herb or root in its concoction. Ayurveda had been backbone of healthcare activities in the past, but the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) initiative reiterates commitment for providing health services for all the people without suffering any financial hardship. Further, UHC cannot be assured merely through medicines, treatments, hospitals and insurance provisions. Today, 70 per cent of the population spends out of own pockets for basic healthcare thus facing financial hardship, but the resolutions can be provided by the activities like development/up gradation of AYUSH healthcare infrastructure, AYUSH wellness tourism and AYUSH drug manufacturing which shall be carried out through the private investment as per the eligible schemes laid out by the Central and UT Government. Young Indian entrepreneurs are now planning a start-up that could find a lot of opportunities in holistic healthcare.

The current Drug and Cosmetic Act and Rules (DCA&R) contain regulatory provisions for Ayurvedic, Siddha, Unani (ASU) drugs. Understandably, the nature of allopathic drugs and ASU drugs are distinctly different from each other. However, many issues related to safety, quality and efficacy remain common to any drug – be it modern or ASU. The National Policy 2002 of Indian Systems of Medicine clearly states the need for substantial evidence for Ayurveda Patent and Proprietary (P&P) products. However, this recommendation still awaits implementation.

Currently, P&P ASU drugs can be put in the market without any scientific or clinical data as evidence. Increasing number of reports and publications are questioning safety of ASU drugs. Current scientometrics suggests increase in case reports showing adverse events with ASU products. The manufacturers need to be more responsible and proactive to ensure safety, quality and efficacy of ASU drugs, especially when people have more expectations from Ayurveda products.

The traditional knowledge and years of experience generated from Ayurveda practices is certainly valuable for discovering new drugs for diabetes. There can be two approaches to develop evidence-based Ayurvedic medicines. First, to undertake robust documentation of prevailing practices to show tangible benefits of Ayurvedic drugs in clinical management of diabetes. This approach should bring clinical experiences, case records and textual information from classical traditional practice as evidence of benefits.

The AYUSH community has responsibility to preserve legacy and ensure that its credibility is not compromised, and promised a healthy long life, which is an added advantage of it. Ayurveda has already proven itself in different fields of research globally, and will continue to do the same. Ayurveda has great potential for curing communicable as well as non-communicable diseases. So, it is the time to realise its importance and make the best out of it. As we have forgotten Ayurveda, we should promote its awareness and revival by engaging youth in the awareness programmes by opening new colleges and research related to Ayurveda. We should establish universities for creating awareness among the students. Future suggestions are that Ayurveda should be linked with tourism which will be an added advantage for the country. Geographical location of India and climate will yield fruitful results in research of the practices.

Ayurveda practicesAYUSHAYUSH industryDrugs & Cosmetics ActPradeep Multani
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