Not a Single Unani doctor among AYUSH doctors for Cantonment Hospitals
A meeting of Joint Action Committee for Promotion of Unani System of Medicine held in New Delhi, with Dr. Muhammad Khalid Siddiqui, Secretary General All India Unani Tibbi Conference in the chair, expressed concern over the injustice continuously meted out to the Unani System of Medicine during the recent years, a statement of the Committee said on April 27.
In the meeting it was observed that with the formation of AYUSH by the Government of India it was hoped that all Indian systems of medicine namely Ayurveda, Yoga and naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy, included in AYUSH, would get equal opportunities for development; but acting upon the policy of side-lining and weakening the Unani System of Medicine, the Department of AYUSH has been ignoring it, the statement claimed.
In the current year 2022-23, 52 dispensaries were opened in Cantonment Hospitals, and AYUSH doctors were appointed to run them but not a single Unani doctor was included therein. During the last years also, not a single dispensary was allotted to Unani doctors.
The meeting unanimously demanded from the Union Government to provide development opportunities for the Unani System of Medicine while planning the promotion of AYUSH, thus bringing the years long injustice meted out the Unani System to an end.
The representatives of All India Unani Tibbi Congress, All India Tibbi Vaidik Doctors Association, All India Unani and Ayurvedic Doctors Association, Markazi Unani Tibbi Organisation, National Unani Medical Sciences Development Council, Islahi Healthcare Foundation, Anjuman Farogh-i-Tibb Delhi, Hakim Ajmal Khan Youth Brigade, Hakim Ajmal Khan Memorial Trust, Global Unani Medicine and Research Foundation, etc. participated in the meeting.
The AYUSH industry must capitalise on the fact that over 40% of the formulations of allopathic medicines and drugs are based on the ingredients of traditional medicines.
AYUSH Poised for a Great Leap
Arshad Shaikh looks at the growth of the AYUSH industry and examines how it is all set to give a boost to medical tourism in the country. Although AYUSH products have tremendous potential, there exist several challenges that need to be surmounted. The positive aspect for AYUSH is the commitment by the government for its unstinted support and the growing awareness in the public towards wellness and holistic approach to health and fitness.
The current government has cast itself as the custodian of reviving and promoting ancient Indian culture and traditions. It accorded the status of a full-fledged ministry in November 2014 to a department known as the Department of Indian System of Medicine and Homoeopathy (ISM&H) (Established-1995). The formation of a new ministry called the ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy) gave a huge boost to “reviving the profound knowledge of traditional Indian systems of medicine and ensuring the optimal development and propagation of the AYUSH systems of healthcare.”
Recently, the AYUSH industry received a fillip with the inauguration of the WHO’s Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM) at Jamnagar, Gujarat, at the hands of the Prime Minister of India. The programme was graced by WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus, and Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth. Reports suggest that India has committed $250 million to build the GCTM. The Centre will conduct research, with the spirit of India’s vision of ‘One Earth, One Health’. It will adopt a holistic and inclusive approach by using traditional medicines from China, Korea, Japan and Africa besides Indian AYUSH products.
The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros prophesied: “The Centre is historic and will prove to be a game changer.”
PM Modi said: “The GCTM would build a database of traditional knowledge systems using the latest technology. It would evolve international standards for the testing and certification of traditional medicinal systems to enhance the confidence of consumers in traditional medicines. The Centre would act as a global platform for the experts of traditional medicines, and will mobilise funding for research. By adopting a holistic approach in the treatment of various diseases, both traditional and modern medicine would now aid and help patients.”
The Prime Minister also announced that an AYUSH visa category for foreign nationals would be introduced and “With this visa, it will make travel easier for accessing Ayush therapies (in India)”, thereby boosting medical tourism.
Painting a very glowing image about the future of AYUSH, Modi said: “Be it natural supplements, drug supply chains, Ayush-based diagnostics or telemedicine, there are possibilities of innovation and investment all around.”
He added that ‘Heal in India’ can become a big brand of this decade and Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha wellness centres can become popular and attract people from across the globe.
WHO data says that between 65% to 70% people in India use traditional therapies. The AYUSH industry turnover has multiplied 600% in the past eight years. Another number quoted by official sources is a sectoral growth of 17% per annum from $3 billion to $18 billion in 2014-20. Some AYUSH segments recorded excellent growth such as plant derivatives (21%), nutraceuticals (20.5%), pharmaceuticals (15.8%), plant extracts (14.7%) and herbal plants (14.3%). Today, domestic giants like Dabur, Zandu, Hamdard, Vicco Labs, Himalaya and Patanjali are gaining immense popularity in foreign countries. With extensive government support and a huge local market, many AYUSH startups with new products, quality packaging, slick advertising and focused marketing are making their presence felt both in India as well as abroad.
CHALLENGES FOR THE AYUSH INDUSTRY
The AYUSH industry has a very interesting history. The Ministry of Health came out with a Report of the Committee on Indigenous Systems of Medicine in 1948. However, some of the steps taken as recommended by the report could not be sustained. If we compare the turnover of the AYUSH industry to that of the mainstream pharmaceutical industry, we realise that although the AYUSH market can boast of being as large as $18 billion, it is still dwarfed by the $500 billion pharmaceutical industry. Despite immense progress, AYUSH still lacks adequate medicines, health centres and medical practitioners. Notwithstanding its massive popularity, the public faith in its efficiency or ability to cure diseases is still not able to match that of allopathy or conventional medical systems.
Other challenges include dishonest practice by AYUSH practitioners, the unnecessary tall claims of healing some diseases and medical conditions in the name of being 100% natural and the extra push for export promotion to garner credibility in the market. There continues to be a stark difference between the world of traditional medicine and that of conventional allopathic medicine. Despite magnificent improvements towards modernisation, AYUSH still has a subservient status compared to allopathy. Efforts to integrate them are not simple and the AYUSH world fears a loss of identity in case of such integration.
THE ROAD AHEAD
For AYUSH to integrate into the mainstream medical ecosystem or act as its complement, it is important to arrive at some sort of consensus between its leading practitioners and those who govern its theory and practice. Misconceptions need to be cleared and regulatory deficits need to be plugged. The allegation that AYUSH practitioners jump onto the allopathy bandwagon and prescribe allopathic drugs and steroids is true and needs to be addressed.
The National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Act, 2020 tries to address this challenge by (a) laying down policies for maintaining high quality and high standards in the education of the Indian System of Medicine and making necessary regulations on this behalf; (b) assessing the requirements in healthcare, including human resources for health and healthcare infrastructure and develop a roadmap for meeting such requirements; (c) ensuring observance of professional ethics in Medical profession and to promote ethical conduct during the provision of care by medical practitioners.
Steps like the introduction of an ‘AYUSH’ mark as a seal of ‘quality approval’ to authenticate quality AYUSH products along the lines of the ISI mark will go a long way in both standardisations and quality assurance that will bring more consumers in the fold of AYUSH. The governing bodies for AYUSH must ensure sufficient transparency regarding the safety and efficacy of AYUSH treatments. The AYUSH industry must capitalise on the fact that over 40% of the formulations of allopathic medicines and drugs are based on the ingredients of traditional medicines.
As pointed out by Dr Tedros, turmeric, neem, jamun, and certain products from Brazil to Africa are used to make mainstream allopathic drugs. The government’s vision of allopathy and AYUSH not being two parallel tracks that need to be merged but rather there is one integrated health and wellness system that has different sub-systems specialising in the treatment of different conditions and diseases is ambitious and will take time to become a reality.
Trust plays the most critical element in any medical treatment. Today the trust in AYUSH is largely confined to those who believe in its efficacy. People demand and expect 100% cure for their medical problems. As of now, people who do not get relief even after trying all possible allopathic treatment, try AYUSH as a treatment of last resort. AYUSH is poised for a great leap but the whole AYUSH project is still ‘work in progress’.