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Pharmaceutical aspects of traditional medicine
Dr Amritpal Singh | Wednesday, June 13, 2018, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Traditional medicine is also known as indigenous or ethno or folk medicine. Traditional drugs are significant source of herbal and modern medicine. However, the development of pharmaceutical medicine has overshadowed the growth of traditional medicine. The indigenous systems of medicine of India include Ayush (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy). Previously, Ayush systems of medicine were known as ASU (Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani or ISM&H (Indian System of Medicine & Homoeopathy).

Traditional medicine is a broad term and covers various ethno systems of medicine like Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Traditional Africana Medicine. Ayurveda is better known as traditional Indian Medicine.

Pharma courses related to traditional medicine
In India, generally two separate classes of pharmacy courses related to ayurvedic medicine are available. First group of courses are offered by Ayurvedic colleges, Ayush universities or state faculty of ASU of medicine. 2nd type of courses has been created in colleges offering education in conventional pharmacy. These courses are more or less related to phytopharmacy or traditional medicine. As an instance, M.Pharma-Phytopharmacy and Phytomedicine offered by Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University, Chennai. Similarly, MS (Traditional Medicine) course offered by NIPER, Mohali is targeted at pharmaceutical significance of Ayush system of medicine.

Courses like M.Pharma-Phytopharmacy and Phytomedicine and MS (Traditional Medicine) seem to have been created to the need of conventional pharmaceutical industry. The main mandate of above mentioned courses is to explore the biodiversity for novel bioactive molecules for application in pharmaceutical industry. These courses should not be confused with conventional ayurvedic pharmacy courses.

Registration of traditional medicine
When it comes to the affiliation issues of the courses, conventional ayurvedic pharmacy courses naturally fall within the domain of the Department of Ayush, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. That is a separate issue that still no body has been created at Central level dealing with registration issues of ayurvedic pharmacists. However, State Ayurvedic and Unani Boards in Jharkhand and Gujarat are dealing with registration of ayurvedic pharmacists.

The registration problem is faced by students passing out from private universities and institutions having not taken requisite approval of concerned state government. The private universities and institutions are awarding degree only on basis of the fact that B.Pharm-Ayurveda degree is specified in the Section 22 of UGC Act. As per UGC, it specifies degrees only and rests of the queries are to be resolved by the council concerned. In case of B.Pharm-Ayurveda degree is concerned department is department of Ayush.

In case of pharmacy institutes offering courses related to modern aspects of traditional medicine (M.Pharma-Phytopharmacy and Phytomedicine and MS (Traditional Medicine), the courses should automatically come under the umbrella of Pharmacy Council of India. When it comes to official recognition of above mentioned courses, obviously the matter falls within the scope of department of Ayush. However, as per department of Ayush matter related to traditional medicine does not pertain to Central Council of Indian Medicine.

As an instance, MS (Traditional Medicine) degree is awarded by NIPER, Mohali functioning under the aegis of Department of Pharmaceuticals. But the matter related to registration of MS (Traditional Medicine) degree holder is confusing. The situation is dicey as department of Ayush does not recognize term traditional medicine and no notification in this regard has been issued either by PCI or AICTE regarding official recognition of MS (Traditional Medicine) degree.

Why immediate attention is required?
The scope of ayurvedic medicine is increasing and demand at global level is promising. Under the prevailing circumstances, the hidden importance of ayurvedic pharmacy, traditional medicine or phytopharmacy should be identified and a well-defined strategy should be drafted. WHO policy on traditional medicine stresses on scientific development and validation of various systems of ethno medicine and indigenous systems of medicine.

On the other hand, ayurvedic pharmacy, traditional medicine or phytopharmacy still seem to be at infancy stage in India. No serious steps have been taken to regulate ayurvedic pharmacy profession. Creation of council on lines parallel to PCI is the need of the hour. Courses are initiated without pre-estimation of the commercial viability and ayurvedic pharmacy is typical example of this approach. Several degrees in Ayurveda have been already banned by the apex court and if the prevailing circumstances continue, courses related to ayurvedic pharmacy shall be obsolete.  

Indian Medicine & Homoeopathy Pharmacy Central Council Bill
The Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy Pharmacy Central Council Bill, 2016 was formulated for standardization and quality control of education and practice of pharmacy in Ayush system. Besides ayurvedic pharmacy, Unani pharmacy and Homoeopathic pharmacy courses also exist without professional benchmarks. Delay in the implementation of the Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy Pharmacy Central Council Bill, 2016 is largely to be blamed for not safeguarding the interests of Ayush pharmacy professionals.

In this regards, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare must take up issue with the Ministry of Ayush, which instead should ask Central Council of Indian Medicine to take practical steps to solve Ayush pharmacy related problems. The sensitive issues include improving undergraduate and postgraduate standards of education, recognition and registration issues of Ayush pharmacist and above all, job opportunities.

The Ministry of Ayush must ensure that private universities must follow the standards and ethics while awarding degrees in ayurvedic pharmacy. The private universities must comply with the rules and regulations lay down by the concerned state government and must get formal approval before stating such type of courses. The Ministry of Ayush must come up with a list of institutes providing undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate studies in Ayush pharmacy. Just as the Ministry of Ayush and Central Council of Indian Medicine have taken concrete steps for development of Ayush sciences, the need of the time is to initiate similar efforts for development of Ayush pharmacy.

PCI approach
The main aim is to bring Ayush pharmacy courses in limelight keeping in mind growing trend of Indian traditional medicine. In this regard, The Ministry of Ayush may adopt and follow the PCI model dealing with conventional pharmacy courses. Ayurvedic pharmacy is a significant but neglected subject and we need to identify the potential. There is no harm in adopting PCI approach for Ayush pharmacy courses as scientific validation is must to enhance commercial viability.

The syllabus designed by some of the institutes for B Pharm, (Ay.), M Pharm, (Ay.) and Traditional Medicine courses covers approximately 80% of conventional pharmaceutical subjects. The pharmaceutical aspects of the traditional medicine (reflecting in the title of the article) needs to be explored and emphasized and in this regard regulation of education and practice is a must. The awarding of unrecognized degrees should be banned as countless people have passed courses in Ayush pharmacy and finding hard to get jobs in government and private sector. Ministry of Ayush should take immediate steps to enhance the pharmaceutical aspects of the traditional medicine as it can definitely add to the annual turnover of the Indian pharma industry.  

(The author is a herbal consultant, Mohali-based)

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