“Get diabetes reduce with only 1 month course, FDA approved, Kerala Ayurvedic. No side effect. 1,800/- only, money back offer” – reads the staccato message sent through mobile phones.

It only gets more intriguing, on checking further, as a “doctor” representative with this “Kerala Ayurvedic Company” tells Business Line , the proprietary capsule is approved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Food and Drug Administration.

The company, he says, was established in 1834 and based in Kannur and the capsules will be sent to the customer after her doctor's name is verified by the IMA!

The problem here is, despite claiming to be over 100-years-old — Kerala's drug regulatory authorities (who give manufacturing approvals to make any medicine in the State) are unaware of this company or the proprietary medicine. The IMA (a body of allopathic doctors) says it has no authority to approve an ayurvedic or any drug. And the country's ayurvedic drug manufacturers' platform, specifically their representatives in Kerala, also do not seem to know the company, despite making enquiries.

And here-in lies the frightening tale of the so-called medicinal products of unknown quality and efficacy being peddled in the country. With little or no scrutiny, such products slip through regulatory mechanisms — leaving, in this case, people susceptible to a medicine that promises to “reduce diabetes”. India is home to among the largest number of people with diabetes.

“Precious time in treatment is lost, as people sometimes end up believing questionable products in the market place,” observes Mr Ranjit Puranik, Chief Executive, Shree Dhootapapeshwar, and representative of the Ayuvedic Drug Manufacturers' Association.

Ayurvedic products get tainted by such “mercenaries” who come and go, he says. Consumers need to be alert and not look for a quick fix to solve chronic problems, and should instead go to qualified ayurvedic physicians or reputed vaids , he adds. Whether it is for diabetes, immunity problems, cancer or sexual dysfunctionalities, there are no quick solutions, he reiterates.

Industry estimates that the ayurveda products market has the potential to gross Rs 14,500 crore by next year.

On whose watch?

At the heart of this industry is Kerala, and yet, there is an acute shortage of regulatory and enforcement officers in the State. Put the words Kerala and ayurveda together, and a potent combination emerges, commanding trust and enjoying a brand-recall across the world, say regulatory officials.

Kerala has ayurvedic companies of different hues, young and old, making classical (traditional) and patented medicines, besides housing about 1,100 manufacturing facilities. But the entire State has only three drug inspectors (including one on leave), says a source, underlining the need to strengthen the regulatory and enforcement authority.

Distributors, at present outside the drug regulatory system, also need to be brought under their watch, say officials, as questionable products claiming cures and making promises, flood the market.

In fact, the company selling capsules claiming to reduce diabetes could well be a distributor, they conclude, with no other leads on the company.