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Report on ayurvedic preparations — Indian cos say medicines safe

Nithya Subramanian

New Delhi , Dec. 19

THE recent study by the Harvard Medical School revealing the presence of excessive quantities of lead, mercury and arsenic has taken some sheen off ayurvedic products, but Indian companies exporting these products reiterate that these medicines are safe.

A Dabur Pharma spokesperson said the company follows good manufacturing practices and has sought complete details of the study. "We will take it up with the authorities after examining the whole report," he said. The Himalaya Drug Company too claimed that it follows strict rules laid down by WHO and products are developed using modern technology.

Meanwhile, companies said that the metals have not been added separately but are present because ayurvedic formulations are herbal-based. Elaborating on this, an official of the Himalaya Drug Company said, "Herbal products contain traces of heavy metals since the medicinal inputs are grown in natural surroundings, which will not have any deleterious effect on health of individuals. Permissible limits laid down by WHO are complied with by Himalaya."

The Department of AYUSH (ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, sidda and homeopathy) in the Health Ministry has, meanwhile, backed the companies.

According to a senior official, "Some metals may be used for the drugs. But these should not and cannot have toxic effects. However, as part of our continuous monitoring system, a committee looks into these products. So we will examine this report as well."

The Government said that there is a detailed pharmacopoeia and companies have to follow these while manufacturing drugs.

Interestingly, the US Food and Drug Administration has not recognised ayurvedic medicines and most of the products are being sold as food supplements.

"This report is an independent study and not part of the US regulator's report," said the officials.

The Harvard Medical School study has indicated that several ayurvedic medicines bought from South Asian grocery shops had potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury and/or arsenic.

It said, "Users of ayurvedic medicine may be at risk for heavy metal toxicity and testing of ayurvedic herbal medicinal products for toxic heavy metals should be mandatory." The companies under the scanner include Dabur, Himalaya, Zandu and Baidyanath, among others.

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Report on ayurvedic preparations — Indian cos say medicines safe

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