Removing the distrust between medicine systems

D B Anantha Narayana | Updated on September 14, 2019 Published on September 14, 2019

Integrated medicine can combine the best of different methodologies to benefit patients

A leading Pune-based urologist often used ayurvedic herbs and kshara (salts obtained by incineration of herbs) along with the regular synthetic drugs that he prescribed for kidney-related problems. He documented this integrated treatment and its benefits, eventually obtaining a patent for these herbal combinations.

Similarly, a neurologist in Bengaluru got his patients to undergo shirodhara (an ayurvedic therapy) in combination with treatment using modern medicine to treat neurological disorders like seizures, severe insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome and migraine.

Over the last decade, doctors have begun to discuss integrated healthcare and medicine where patients are given medicines of both traditional and modern systems. In fact, times have changed from when I used to get thrown out of a physician’s chambers for asking them to study ayurvedic products for their efficacy and safety. These days, a number of requests come in from physicians wanting to know what a Vaidya (Ayurveda practitioner) would have used for a particular disease. More research publications are reporting results of studies using contemporary chemical and biological science tools on ayurvedic products and herbs.

And yet, when ayurvedic vaidyas use diagnostic tools and record details to interpret and corroborate ayurvedic dashavidha pareeksha or the “10-fold examination” to diagnose disease and prescribe drugs, they are criticised by certain lobbies of doctors practising modern medicine. Unfortunately such criticism is also holding back qualified MBBS physicians from documenting the outcomes of ayurvedic products they may have prescribed.

Removing barriers

This distrust between the systems of medicine needed to be removed as there are benefits in pursuing an integrated pathway on healthcare. Recognising this, healthcare professionals called for the removal of artificial legal barriers that prohibit such integrated treatments as long as the physician and Vaidya are trained and qualified. And from this was born the demand to introduce a structured bridge course on a set of medicines and therapies from the other systems of medicine to help patients get the best of both systems and better health outcomes.

The National Medical Council Act recently passed by Parliament has provisions to give effect to promote integrated medical practice. It has a provision for a six-month course to MBBS students to provide them knowledge on systems like ayurveda and vice versa.

It is important that these discussions are spearheaded by experts who help in designing the content and methodology of these courses to make them effective. Let’s be clear, a six-month course cannot make an MBBS graduate a full-fledged Vaidya and a Vaidya cannot become a practitioner of modern medicine.

But a trained set of parameters to understand the basics of diagnosis and therapy using a select number of medicines; being aware of detail involving dose, duration, directions, interactions between medicines and other such advisories can enhance healthcare delivery to benefit patients. These select number of medicines can be different depending on the specialisation area of treatment that the physician or Vaidya intends to practise.

Strengths and weaknesses of different systems of medicine are well known. Contemporary bio-medical practice is strong to treat life threatening diseases, provide surgical and interventional treatments and bring relief to severe and acute diseases, including infections. Ayurveda and traditional medical systems have their strength in providing relief for a number of chronic diseases involving liver and kidney health, weak immunity and overall quality of life.

There should also be a strong regulatory framework with stringent deterrents to prevent fraudulent practices by touts looking to exploit either medicine system and disrupt a smooth integration. But preventing a scientific discussion on integrated medicine with the bogey of age-old prejudiced arguments and the fear of fraud will result in the loss of an opportunity to deliver to patients the benefits of an above-board integrated system of medicine.



The writer is a pharmaceutical scientist who has researched and successfully developed a number of ayurvedic and herbal products and is a regulatory expert

Published on September 14, 2019
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