Express Pharma

Ethno-pharma: An opportunity for India

Dr RB Smarta, MD, Interlink Consultancy opines that although India is actively exploring the space of ethno-pharma, concerted efforts are essential to boost research and create evidence for ethnomedicines with the help of technological advancements

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In the new normal scenario of healthcare, where the approaches are patient-centric and no longer product-centric, traditional and integrative medicinal practices are rooting for ‘ethno-pharmacy’. 

At the intersection of social and natural sciences, ethno-pharmacy is a field that focuses on traditional medicines (and pharmaceuticals) and their cultural determinants to investigate the possible use/perception of traditional medicines (and pharmaceuticals) in the culture. 

Often known as the ‘multidisciplinary scientific approach’, Ethno-pharma mainly deals with indigenous drugs and seeks to explore their relevance to modern healthcare. The traditional system of medicines is a complex, multi-parameter system. To understand this system, several holistic approaches are undertaken in the ethnopharma field. And these approaches seem to be extremely beneficial in innovating novel treatment strategies for the management of various chronic diseases. 

Following are some factors owing to which India could leverage some realistic opportunities in the field of ethnopharma in recent years:

Evolving research scenario of natural molecules

Ethnopharmacology, one of the allied branches of ethnomedicines, has an important role in establishing new research and development in traditional medicinal plants. Through these research approaches, numerous biological effects of several chemical groups in a wide variety of medicinal plants are investigated. 

Many of these plant actives are currently used in modern healthcare practices and the pharma industry is also exploring the opportunities in this area. Pharma companies are putting tremendous efforts to boost ethnopharmacological research in natural therapeutic ingredients as a huge number of actives of medicinal plants are part of pharma formulations that are used to treat critical diseases. Such efforts are mostly concentrated in the area of exploring viable sources of medicinal plants and the development of new novel molecules which are affordable and safe. 

Moreover, India has a heritage of medicinal plants and knowledge. Therefore, greater advancements in the research and development field of ethnopharma are expected in the coming years. 

Favourable attitudes toward natural products