For centuries, people all over the world have relied on herbal medicines, handed down through generations. The government think-tank Niti Aayog has also come up with two draft legislations to regulate and promote Indian systems of medicine, which include Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy and Homoeopathy. The legislation will not only regulate, but also give these systems a much-needed push towards the mainstream.
The importance of ensuring healthcare access cannot be overstated in a developing country like India. While medicine has made major advances, but the Ayurvedic mode of treatment is still desperately in need of new modes of treatment. It takes years for a new drug to pass the research and manufacture process and the cost of manufacturing is enormous. This prompts the need to look towards alternative treatment practices.
Moreover, a large section of the society depends on traditional medicine for their primary healthcare. People in remote areas all over the world rely on traditional medicine, particularly the herbal ones, for cure.
Indian traditional medicinal systems like Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani have a rich history of their effectiveness. Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old system is also being used to treat modern ailments and lifestyle diseases.
According to a report by Ryan Abott, titled ‘Documenting Traditional Medicinal Knowledge’, 80 per cent of the population in Asia and Africa still uses traditional remedies, rather than modern medicines for primary healthcare. Even in developed nations, traditional medicines are rapidly gaining appeal with estimates suggesting that up to 80 per cent of the population has tried a therapy such as acupuncture or homeopathy.
In the light of these facts, incorporating traditional medicines in the mainstream becomes necessary. The Niti Aayog proposals are a welcome move in that direction. Among other things, the bills seek to ensure adequate high quality medical professionals for the Indian stream of medicine at both under-graduate and post-graduate levels and to promote research. The bills also provide for maintenance of registers for professionals engaged in Indian System of Medicine and homeopathy. Moreover, the central government will also constitute a commission, to be named the National Commission for Homoeopathy.
All these guidelines and regulations will not only solve the problem of accessibility in terms of quality healthcare, but also bring a centralized system for regulation of these systems. Ensuring adequate knowledge about the system, high quality clinical trials, proper information about such drugs and their effectiveness among common people will only further the promotion of such medicine. Integration of Ayurvedic and other Indian traditional medicine in clinical practices through these regulations will also be helpful for people, who are unable to access modern medicine. Moreover, the bill will alleviate issues of integration such as irrational use, quality control and standardization problems. This will be done by establishing standards for safety and evidence, appropriating definitions of inclusion and exclusion, and pushing adaption of standard protocols.
Traditional medicine has much to offer towards global health, especially as new drugs have never been more urgently needed. However, incorporating its knowledge into modern healthcare and ensuring it meets modern safety and efficacy standards is no easy task. But marrying traditional and modern medicine can definitely spark a revival of global healthcare research and development.