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Allegation of animal bones and herbal medicines

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  • atanu dey
    Allegation of animal bones and herbal medicines Atanu Dey, 15th Jan.’06. The recent allegation by CPI(M) leader Ms. Brinda Karat on Swami Ramdev about
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 15, 2006
      Allegation of animal bones and herbal medicines
      Atanu Dey, 15th Jan.’06.

      The recent allegation by CPI(M) leader Ms. Brinda Karat on Swami Ramdev about mixing human sculls and animal bones to his herbal medicines in India has resulted a peculiar and strange outcome of opinion after it. In political domain, apart from the Hinduite leaders, the so called secular leaders were found to take a side with the Swami visibly because the later occupies a great space in the hoi polloi these days and it is always better to play safe. On the other hand, the allegation seems to be not able to create any ripple in the public mind which appears exactly in agreement with Mr. Lalu Prashad Yadav’s saying "So long as the herbal medicines added life to years, it hardly mattered whether it contained bones of manav ya danav (human beings or devils)”. It is certainly a startling fact in itself that a large follower of the Swami remains unperturbed after knowing the allegation, not with disbelief but with the view that it does not matter what ever it contains till it cures -
      in tunes with Mr. Lalu’s saying.
      It is not that, medicines are never made with human or animal bones or other organs and neither is Ayurvedic medicine an exception. In Ayurvedic pharmacology, there are many preparations which contain animal parts, but herbal preparations occupy the much bigger part of Ayurvedic or any other traditional Indian medicinal system.
      In recent years, there has been a considerable acceptance and promotion of herbal medicines in India and Indian herbal medicines in elsewhere for their effectiveness and supposedly near zero side affects. It was a very positive turnaround to accept and acknowledge the efficacy of herbal medicinal system which was long known and tested in time over the centuries and stood to be truly alternative to the allopathic system where researchers take even a generation’s time to find out the side effects. What expected was a more and more methodological and scientific research and study of the system like allopathic system (or any other branch of science) because the modern world stands on scientific reasoning.
      But in reality, no sooner the herbal medicines picked up popularity around two decade ago; there started a rush to capitalize on the ancient findings rather than any farther substantial refinement or addition to it.
      Irrespective of allopathic or alternative medicinal system, the allegation is a matter of grave concern for an increasing number of populations who have been fighting for a medical system with ethics and compassion to other animals at the base. A lot of people world over are making it a point to ban the use of animals at different stages of medicine development. There are widespread campaigns to save an innumerable number of poor animals who are killed in a cruel and torturous way right from the dissection table of a medical student. Animal parts used in medicines are extracted either by killing or sparing their life. If it is allowed to live, it is crueler than death and it is only to extract anti-toxins or other medicinal ingredients, which turn the animals blind or with cancerous development or any other complication. A large number of animals are subjected to post-developmental and testing of a drug, which is injected or applied in a cruel way upon the animals.
      Apart from the allegation of presence of animal part, the inadequate level of purification, contamination with undesired elements or just a wrong prescription of a herbal drug can cause adverse reactions or fatally affect biological systems. Popular television actress Andrea De Cruz was in news in June 2003 after she reported her liver failure - allegedly caused by taking the Chinese-made Slim 10 diet pills. Her liver had to be transplanted and resulted that she would never have children of her own. In the last couple of years, Indian media reported numerous cases of damage resulting out of improper prescription or from non-standard herbal medicines.
      The most serious thing has been the constant reporting of presence of heavy metals in Indian herbal medicines in Europe and US. Drug regulatory authorities in the UK and doctors at the Harvard Medical School had detected potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury and arsenic in 20 per cent of ayurvedic herbal medical products made in India or Pakistan. In December 2004, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an article that said that 14 out of the 70 ayurvedic products from reputed herbal houses in India tested were found to contain heavy metals — lead, mercury and/or arsenic — above acceptable levels. Based on their own testing, Health Canada, the Canadian government’s health department, warned consumers against using some of these Indian ayurvedic products. Consumer Education and Research Society (CERS) brought the article to the notice of the government of India. In 2005, CERS in India tested 23 brands of ‘herbal shampoo’ from the leading
      herbal manufacturers of the country. The contrasting finding was that, many of the brands contained active detergents and did not conform to their labeling information as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. Some brands did not mention the month or year of manufacturing/ packaging or net contents which are compulsory as per the IS and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. In December same year, the New York City has banned the sale of three Indian herbal products, claiming that they contain dangerous level of lead of mercury.
      In India, the pro-ayurvedics could find a ploy behind all these banning and testing to put down the ancient system from sharing a market in the world. But, it should be mentioned that India’s present share is very little with US$ 1 billion a year in the global market of herbal healthcare products at US$ 60 billion and legs far behind China with US$ 6 billion a year; though it is increasingly in a positive note.
      The lack of a strict control and monitoring of the herbal producers and the produces, have resulted in a ‘you can sell any thing with a herbal banner’ like situation. Under existing Indian laws, herbal products do not require rigorous scientific tests to prove their efficacy, safety or absence of side-effects. As per the Mashelkar Committee, which was examining the drug regulatory issues, and submitted its report in November 2003, said that The licensing conditions for herbal products in India do not provide for mandatory evidence for safety, efficacy and quality control of the products. Dr Raghunath Mashelkar, the director-general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), who had chaired the committee, said government action to reform the regulatory standards for herbal medicines has been “relatively slow”.
      As per rule 161 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1940, the following has to be conspicuously displayed on the label of the container of an ayurvedic drug:
      • List and quantity of all the ingredients.
      • A reference to the method of preparation as detailed in the standard texts.
      • If the list of the ingredients is large, it must be enclosed with the packing and reference must be made on the label.
      • Schedule E(1) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules is a list of poisonous substances under the ayurvedic, siddha and unani systems of medicine. If a product contains any of the enlisted substances, it must carry on its label - ‘Caution: To be taken under medical supervision’ in English and Hindi.
      On the label of the innermost container the following should be mentioned:
      • Name of the drug, net contents in terms of weight, measure or number.
      • Name and address of the manufacturer.
      • Manufacturing license number (M. L.)
      • Batch number, date of manufacture.
      • The words ‘Ayurvedic medicine’.
      • The words ‘For external use only’ if the medicine is for external application.
      From January 1, 2006, every licensed manufacturer of herbal products in the country will have to declare ‘heavy metals within permissible limits’ on their containers before exporting them. Department of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy), in the ministry of health & family welfare, government of India has asked the manufacturers to declare if any herbal product contains even one of the potentially toxic elements as mentioned in Schedule E (1) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. Manufacturers will have to post a statutory warning asking people to buy them under medical supervision, failing which the manufacturers’ license will be cancelled.
      These are off course some welcome steps initiated by the Govt. of India to correct some disorders in the manufacturing of herbal medicines by different manufacturers to some extent but more remains to be done. The allegation must act as an eye opener to the authorities to save the most enriched ancient system of medicine from degeneration ahead so that it can become a complete system of cure and maintaining good health which can stand as a true alternative to the allopathic system.
      (with help from media news 2003, 2004, 2005)

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