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We have found multiple molecules that could be effective against coronavirus

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With the onset of coronavirus in the country, Atrimed Pharma has thrived its research expertise in herbal research, and launched a herbal hand sanitiser as well. Dr Hrishikesh Damle, Managing Director, Atrimed Pharma, shares the company’s ongoing activities, along with future plans with Usha Sharma

Give us a brief insight about the company’s ongoing activities.

Atrimed is involved in multiple activities from molecular research to developing and marketing new products. Our product segments include skin care, nutrition, pain relief, mother and child care. Recently, we have been working on anti-COVID-19 products. Our hand sanitiser is the first product in this segment with more to follow.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the demand of Ayurvedic products has increased significantly, tell us the growth drivers of the demand and its long-term benefits.

COVID-19 has exposed both the governments’ preparedness as well as the existing knowledge base when new microbe strikes. People have started thinking that we must have been protected by evolution where intuitively human being was doing something which protected us. So, traditional medicine in India has gained popularity, especially in preventive space. The segment, which is doing well, is so-called ‘immunity boosters,” preventive care nutrition and healthfoods. The demand will last longer because the memory of COVID can not be erased from the minds of people for many years to come.

We are trying to define and measure immunity through scientific methods and are looking for those apt herbs which do it effectively. It is beyond anecdotal evidence. We are looking to develop the products which can improve immunity across the larger spectrum of microbes. That will benefit many people.

Considering the pandemic situation in the country due to COVID-19, the company has offered various solutions and services, please share details on those.

We have done basic research on plant molecules for their effectiveness against the coronavirus. We have found multiple molecules that could be effective against the coronavirus. We are pursuing further research in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and other major institutions. Two of our research papers are under publication by reputed scientific journals.

Recently, Atrimed Pharma also launched the Mahila clinics. Tell us about its objective and further scaling up plans.

Mahila clinics are owned and operated by women for women. It provides cutting-edge, integrative care to women under one roof. We encourage entrepreneurship among women who own and operate these clinics. Our first clinic has started and three more are coming in next one month in Bengaluru. To scale up, we are looking for franchises who want to own and operate the Mahila clinics.

What all service does the platform offer and what is the business model?

The Mahila Clinics offer a complete spectrum of care to women, which include primary and preventive care from Aurveda and allopathy. We also provide specialist services, if needed. That apart, we also provide community outreach services for early detection of breast and cervical cancer. Each clinic has a pharmacy and healthcare store catering to the special needs of women.

Tell us about the company’s recently launched hand sanitiser and what all regulatory requirements you have adhered to for manufacturing as well as marketing?

A good quality sanitiser must kill viruses and bacteria without damaging the skin and it should be affordable for a common man. Our sanitiser is made with herbal oils and hence, there is sno dryness. It leaves a pleasant smell beating bad smell of alcohol. Our plant’s science division has developed a sanitiser, which is effective and affordable. With an MRP of Rs 200 for 500 ml, it is probably the least expensive product in its category. We have taken license from AYUSH and we manufacture at GMP-certified factories.

Can you give us an insight on emerging trends particularly in the Ayurveda medicines?

The emerging trends at the shorter periods are about allopathic pharma giants immediately making some quick fix formulations and capturing the market. They can do so because they both have marketing muscle as well as distribution channels.

On the long term, scientists will look into various herbs and their possible use in preventive and curative space. Traditional companies have started to understand the importance of infections and started to speak the language of virus and immunity. Probably, they will be inspired to add on and work more on scientific terms.

Give us a brief update about the company’s herbal and non-herbal product range. How many are there in the pipeline, and when are they likely to come to the market?

We are specialists in herbal product range. We have done some research on nature and are coming out with a range of products namely Plant Science. We will have products to treat cane and for wound healing and hyper pigmentation.

How has the nationwide lockdown affected the company, and would you like to comment on the recently announced schemes/initiatives?

The lockdown slowed us down like many other businesses. The government initiatives will not affect us much.

Tell us about the company’s business strategies for the current fiscal.

We will focus on starting more Mahila clinics and selling products online.

Why do traditional Indian medicines lack in presenting the scientific data against other well-established streams?

India, as a whole country, lacks in presenting data not only in traditional medicine, but everything. Look around, you don’t have data on anything. No modern scientists and pharma companies in India have created presentable data to a conclusive end (i.e. new drug approval and release to market). In fact, the drug development process is so complicated that very few pharma giants in India can do it all alone.

Traditional medicine against pharmaceutical products in several therapeutic segments is considerably a small business. The companies clock just about few hundred crores in turnover. If creating evidence needs few hundred million dollars, how do you expect the traditional pharma companies to do it?

Having said that, with these excuses, traditional companies are comfortable selling with anecdotal evidences and faith-based claims.

Evidence can be created with smaller experiments and with collaborations. It can be expanded to higher levels; however, such thought/practices have not been implemented in India.

What are the key learnings for the Ayurved sector from the coronavirus pandemic and how can it be streamlined?

The key is, if you want to be relevant in modern times like this pandemic, you need to embrace modern science with prudence. While your ancient knowledge can be the store house of solutions, modern methods need to be adopted for bringing solutions, which will have to be accepted by authorities and governments. The weakness of modern medicine which gave you a wind of an opportunity, don’t bungle it by riding on the traditional angle. There is scope for you to emerge as therapeutic leaders if you embrace science.

How can Ayurveda evolve to play a larger role in preventing and treating pandemics in the future?

Nothing short of RCT (Randomised Controlled Trials) – both in preventive and therapeutic space – can be substituted. Structured translational research with collaboration with experts in science and access to money from big players is the only way for Ayurveda to flourish.

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