Ahead of the International Vitiligo Day, a herbal drug developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) offers a new hope to those suffering from leucoderma, a condition in which white patches develop on the skin.

Recognising the benefits of the drug, the Modi government last month conferred Hemant Pandey, a senior DRDO scientist, with the prestigious ‘Science Award’ for developing ‘Lukoskin’ to treat the skin condition.

Life-altering disease

The auto-immune condition, also called ‘vitiligo’, can be life-altering. Some people develop low self-esteem and severe depression, an observation which prompted Pandey to work on an advanced version of the Lukoskin drug for better results.

As the world marks June 25 as the International Vitiligo Day, Pandey, who heads the Herbal Medicine Division of DRDO’s Defence Institute of Bio-energy Research (DIBER) at Pithoragarh, spoke about Lukoskin, which is manufactured and marketed by Delhi-based AIMIL Pharma Ltd.

There are various remedies for vitiligo, but none of the therapies has satisfactorily cured this disease, he said.

“Secondly, these are either costly or single-molecule based, with very low-level of efficacy and develop side-effects such as blisters, oedema and skin irritation with most patients discontinuing the treatment,” said the scientist, who is a recipient of several prestigious awards for his contributions in the field of herbal medicine.

In 2015, he bagged the Agri Innovation Award for Lukoskin.

“Hence, we focussed on the causes of the disease (aetiology) and researched a comprehensive formulation for the management of leucoderma from Himalayan herbs post exhaustive scientific studies,” said Pandey.

Lukoskin is available as an ointment and oral liquid. A more developed version is likely to hit the market soon.

The ointment has seven herbal ingredients having properties such as anti-blister, anti-irritation, anti-septic, wound healing and copper supplementing properties, while the oral formulation is designed to check the emergence of new spots, said Nitika Kohli, an Ayurveda expert.

Debunking myths

Vitiligo is neither contagious nor life-threatening.

Worldwide, the incidence of leucoderma is 1-2 per cent of the population.

In India, vitiligo has social stigma attached to it as people confuse it with leprosy, Pandey added.